Although it has been settled for less than 400 years, Mauritius was probably visited by the Arabs before the 10th century, the Malays in the 1400s, and the Portuguese in the early 1500s. It was occupied in 1598 by the Dutch, who named it for Maurice of Nassau, then stadtholder of The Netherlands. The Dutch left in 1710, and in 1715 the French took possession, renaming it Ile de France. It was captured by the British in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars and was formally ceded to Britain in 1814. To offset the labor problem arising from abolition of slavery in the British Empire, the planters were allowed to import indentured laborers from India, and since 1861 the population has been mainly Indian.
Mauritius was granted independence on March 12, 1968. A member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Afro-Malagasy Mauritian Common Organization, and the Organization of African Unity, Mauritius also has a special arrangement with the European Union under the Lome Convention.
The Mauritius Labor Party (MLP), headed by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, governed Mauritius during the first 14 years of independence. The opposition Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) gained strength throughout the 1970s and in 1982 swept to power, under the leadership of Anerood Jugnauth. Ousted from the MMM in a power struggle, Jugnauth formed a new party, the Mauritian Socialist Movement (MSM), which, in alliance with the MLP, won a parliamentary majority in 1983. Jugnauth’s coalition was reelected in 1987 and 1991.
In 1992 Mauritius became a republic, and the Mauritian National Assembly elected Cassam Uteem president. In December 1995 legislative elections the MSM was unanimously voted out in favor of a coalition of the MLP and the MMM. Navin Ramgoolam, leader of the MLP and son of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, replaced Jugnauth as prime minister. The MLP-MMM coalition fell apart in 1997. In September 2000 a MSM-MMM coalition swept legislative elections, and Jugnauth became prime minister once again.