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Mauritius (môrĭshˈēəs, –əs), officially Republic of Mauritius, republic (2015 est. pop. 1,259,000), 790 sq mi (2,046 sq km), in the SW Indian Ocean. It is part of the Mascarene Islands, c.500 mi (800 km) E of Madagascar. The island of Rodriguez and two groups of small islands, Agalega and Cargados Carajos, are dependencies of Mauritius. The capital is Port Louis.

Land and People

Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs. A central plateau is ringed by mountains of volcanic origin, which rise to c.2,700 ft (820 m) in the southwest. The island has a tropical, rainy climate. Mauritius is divided into nine districts.

Over two thirds of the population are of Indian descent, and over 25% are creole (of mixed French and African background). There are also small Chinese and French communities. About half of the people are Hindu, while 30% are Christian (mainly Roman Catholic), and most of the remainder are Muslim. English is the official language, although most of the people speak a creole dialect; other languages include Bojpoori, French, Hindi, Urdu, and Hakka.


Mauritius has had one of the world's faster-growing economies since the early 1980s, in part because of its success in attracting foreign investors. Sugarcane is the chief crop. Tea, flowers for the florist trade, and food crops are also grown, cattle and goats are raised, and there is a fishing industry. Since independence, the country has decreased its dependence on sugar (though most of the arable land remains devoted to it), diversified its industrial base to include mining and manufacturing, and adopted free-trade economic policies. Financial services and tourism are important industries, and data processing and call centers also contribute to the economy. Clothing and textiles, sugar and molasses, cut flowers, and fish are the major exports. Manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, and chemicals are imported. The country's chief trading partners are Great Britain, France, China, and the United States.


Mauritius is governed under the constitution of 1968, as amended. The president, who is head of state, is elected by the National Assemby for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The unicameral legislature consists of the 70-seat National Assembly; 62 members are elected, and eight, representing ethnic minorities, are appointed by the election commission. All serve five-year terms. Administratively, Mauritius is divided into nine districts and three dependencies.


Mauritius was probably visited by Arabs and Malays in the Middle Ages. Portuguese sailors visited it in the 16th cent. The island was occupied by the Dutch from 1598 to 1710 and named after Prince Maurice of Nassau. The French settled the island in 1722 and called it Île de France. It became an important way station on the route to India. The French introduced the cultivation of sugarcane and imported large numbers of African slaves to work the plantations. The British captured the island in 1810 and restored the Dutch name. After the abolition of slavery in 1835, indentured laborers were brought from India; their descendants constitute a majority of the population today.

Politics on Mauritius was long the preserve of the French and the creoles, but the extension of the franchise under the 1947 constitution gave the Indians political power. Indian leaders in the 1950s and 60s favored independence, while the French and creoles wanted continuing association with Britain, fearing domination by the Hindu Indian majority. In 1965, Britain separated the strategic Chagos Archipelago (see British Indian Ocean Territory) from Mauritius, but Mauritius continues to claim the islands and has sought their return. The 1967 election gave a majority in the assembly to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam's proindependence Labor party. Independence was granted in 1968, and Ramgoolam became the first prime minister. Mauritius joined the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations.

The 1960s saw the rise of left-wing militancy, while in the 1970s and 80s political coalitions formed along ethnic and class lines. The economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 80s, after Cyclone Claudette and a drop in world sugar prices, intensified internal disputes.

In 1982 the left-wing Mauritius Militant Movement (MMM) came to power, and Anerood Jugnauth became prime minister. The following year a split in the MMM led Jugnauth to form the Mauritius Socialist Movement (MSM). Jugnauth headed a series of coalition governments. In 1992, Mauritius became a republic, with Cassam Uteem as its first president. In 1995, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the former prime minister, and a Labor-led coalition came to power after defeating Jugnauth in a landslide, but in Sept., 2000, Jugnauth and an MSM-MMM coalition returned to power in a similar landslide.

President Uteem resigned in 2002; Karl Offmann was elected by the national assembly to succeed him. In Sept., 2003, Jugnauth resigned and his MMM coalition partner, Paul Bérenger, became prime minister. Bérenger became the first person not of Indian descent to hold the post. The following month Offman was succeeded as president by Jugnauth. In the July, 2005, national assembly elections, Ramgoolam's Labor-led Social Alliance won a majority of the seats, and he became prime minister. He and his coalition were returned to power in the May, 2010, elections, but in 2011 and 2014 coalition partners of the Labor party withdrew from the government.

Jugnauth resigned in Mar., 2012, to return to active party politics; Rajkeswar Purryag was elected to succeed him as president in July. In Sept., 2014, Labor and MMM agreed to an electoral alliance that would campaign in support of constitutional changes that would split executive powers between a popularly elected president and the prime minister. The December elections resulted in a win for the MSM-led coalition, and Jugnauth again became prime minister. The Mauritian Social Democratic party withdrew from the governing coalition in 2016.

President Purryag resigned in May, 2015; Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was elected to succeed him the following month. In Jan., 2017, Pravind Jugnauth, the finance minister and Anerood Jugnauth's son, succeeded his father as prime minister. In Mar., 2018, President Gurib-Fakim resigned after reports of possible financial improprieties; Vice President Barlen Vyapoory became acting president. Pravind Jugnauth and the MSM remained in power after the Nov., 2019, elections. In December, Pradeep Roopun was elected president.


See S. Selvon, Historical Dictionary of Mauritius (2d ed. 1991); M. J. Devaux, Mauritius (1983); L. Bowman, Mauritius (1991); P. R. Bennett, Mauritius (1992).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a state situated on Mauritius Island, Rodrigues and Agalega islands, and the Cargados Carajos archipelago, in the western Indian Ocean. Member of the British Commonwealth. Total area, 2,045 sq km (of which Mauritius Island accounts for 1,865 sq km); population, 850,000 in 1972, composed mainly of Indians (68 percent), as well as Creoles (primarily descendents of French settlers, 28 percent), Chinese (3 percent), and Africans (descendants of slaves brought from Madagascar). The official language is English, but French is widely spoken. Hindus, the basic religious group, make up 49 percent of the population, Christians about 33 percent, Muslims 14 percent, and Buddhists 4 percent. The official calendar is the Gregorian. In 1963-71 the average annual population increase was 2 percent. The average population density is 415 persons per sq km and is highest on the plateau of Mauritius Island, where it is 800 persons per sq km.

The capital is the town of Port Louis (with a population of 150,000 in 1972); other important towns are Beau Bassin (70,600 in 1968), Curepipe (51,000), Vacoas (50,000), and Quatre Bornes. Administratively Mauritius is divided into nine districts.

Mauritius is a constitutional monarchy. The present constitution was adopted on Mar. 4, 1968, and went into effect on Mar. 12, 1968. The head of state is the English king (queen), who is represented in Mauritius by a governor-general appointed by the monarch. The highest legislative organ is the unicameral Legislative Assembly of 70 members, elected for five years. The governor-general appoints the prime minister and the members of the government of Mauritius (cabinet) from among the members of the Legislative Assembly. The local agencies of administration are district and rural municipal councils.

The court system of Mauritius includes the Supreme Court, a civil appellate court, a criminal appellate court, and district magistrate courts.

Natural features. The islands are of volcanic origin and are composed of basalts, dolomites, and tuffs. The surface is elevated, especially in the southwestern part of Mauritius Island (Mount Piton, 826 m); the central part of the island has a plateau with elevations of up to 600 m, and in the north and east there is a narrow band of coastal lowlands; elevations on Rodrigues Island reach 396 m. The shores are guarded by coral reefs, which make access to the island difficult. The climate is tropical and maritime. The average temperature in February, the warmest month, is 26°C; the temperature in August, the coldest month, ranges from 14°C in the interior regions to 18.5°C on the coast. The annual precipitation ranges from 1,500-2,500 mm in the coastal plains to 3,500-5,000 mm in the central plateau and in the mountains; the precipitation falls mainly in the summer. Hurricane winds (typhoons) are frequent from January through March. The rivers are shallow and dry up completely in the dry season; the main river on Mauritius Island is the Grande Riviere.

The soils on the volcanic rocks are fertile. The dense tropical forests of valuable trees (such as ebony), which once covered the islands, have been mostly logged and have been preserved only in the mountains; about one-third of Mauritius Island is covered with forests. The fauna, belonging to the Madagascar subregion, is endemic (giant tortoises and others) and is marked by a great variety and number of birds.

Historical survey. Mauritius Island was known in the tenth century to Arab navigators, who mentioned it in their descriptions under the name of Dina Arubi (Silver Island). It remained uninhabited until the 16th century. The first Europeans to land on the island were the Portuguese in the early 16th century. The Dutch established their rule over the island in 1598 and named it Mauritius in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Under the Dutch, slaves were brought to Mauritius Island from East Africa. The island attracted the attention of France and Great Britain as a convenient naval base on the route to India and as a source of the valuable ebony tree. The French conquered it in 1715 and renamed it He de France. After the victory of British troops over the French garrison in 1810 the island came under the rule of Great Britain and became officially a colony in 1814. In 1829 the first group of indentured laborers arrived on the island from China. The abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1835 was followed by Indian immigration.

Throughout its history the population of the island waged a struggle against colonial oppression. The struggle was marked by a slave revolt against the Dutch oppressors in 1695, the uprisings of 1724, 1732, and 1794 against the French colonialists, and continuous manifestations during British rule. Trade unions were organized on Mauritius in 1935, and the first political party, the Labor Party (LP), supported mainly by the middle and petite bourgeoisie of Indian extraction, was founded in 1936.

The growth of the anticolonialist struggle after World War II (1939-45) forced Great Britain to make some concessions. The powers of the Legislative Council (a consultative body set up in 1825 under the British governor) were expanded in 1957. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1958. A national government was formed in 1964. Under the pressure of the rising national liberation movement on the island, the London Constitutional Conference of 1965 adopted a decision granting Mauritius independence by no later than the end of 1966. Great Britain, interested in maintaining its rule over the island, postponed the implementation of this promise under various pretexts. On Aug. 7, 1967, elections to the Legislative Council were held, and the island was given the status of a self-governing territory. The LP, which won the elections and whose leader, S. Ramgoolam, became prime minister, demanded immediate independence for the island. This stand was opposed by the Mauritian Social Democratic Party (PMSD, founded in 1955), which expressed the interests of the Creole and European bourgeoisie and administrative elite.

On Mar. 12, 1968, Mauritius became an independent state within the Commonwealth. According to the defense treaty signed the same day, Great Britain retained the right to ensure not only the external security but, “in case of need,” also the internal security of Mauritius, to use the British military facilities and airports on the island, and to supply the national security and police services. The government coalition formed in Mauritius in late 1969, composed of the LP, the PMSD, and the Muslim Committee of Action (founded in 1958), had over threefourths of the seats in parliament. The opposition parties were the Independent Forward Bloc (founded in 1958), the Mauritian Democratic Alliance (founded in 1970), and the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM, founded in 1970), which has won popularity among the working masses and trade unions.

A broad strike movement began in Mauritius in 1970 and gained momentum in late 1971. In December 1971 the government proclaimed a state of emergency, which is still in force. The government coalition disintegrated in December 1973; the PMCD joined the opposition. General elections were set for late 1976. Mauritius became a member of the UN in April 1968 and joined the Afro-Malagasy and Mauritius Common Organization in 1970. In 1972, Mauritius became an associated member of the Common Market.

Diplomatic relations with the USSR were established in 1968.


Economy. Mauritius is an agrarian country, and foreign capital, primarily British and French, plays a great role in its economy. The per capita national income was $261 in 1972. Agriculture and fishing account for 20 percent of the gross national product, and the manufacturing industry for 13 percent. A program of economic and social development for 1971-75 is being implemented in Mauritius. Cultivated land and orchards cover 56 percent of the territory. The chief agricultural crop is sugarcane (80,000 hectares [ha], 686,500 tons of raw sugar in 1972), which covers over three-fourths of all cultivated land. Over 60 percent of the sugarcane harvest comes from big plantations owned by Franco-Mauritian sugar companies. Sugar accounts for about 60 percent of the country’s commodity output. The second most important export crop is tea (3,000 ha, harvest of 4,000 tons in 1972), three-fourths of which is exported. Other crops include tobacco (600 tons in 1971-72), bananas, aloe, corn, potatoes, and vegetables (mainly tomatoes). The livestock consists mainly of goats (68,000 in 1970-71) and cattle (49,000 head). The fish catch was 3,500 tons in 1971.

Industry is represented mainly by sugarcane refineries, which produce 48 percent of the total industrial output. Artificial rubies are manufactured in Mauritius for watch plants in Switzerland; there are also factories for the processing of tea leaves, shipyards, and other enterprises. The electric power output was 148 million kilowatt-hours in 1971. The majority of the enterprises were created with the participation of foreign capital, and their work is directed toward export. Ninety-four percent of the enterprises are small shops employing from one to three workers; the rest, including 22 sugar refineries owned by British and French companies, employ from 100 to 400 workers or more. About 120,000 people are paid workers; there were 31,000 unemployed in 1971.

Mauritius has about 1,400 km of highways, of which 900 km are covered with asphalt, and 29,000 motor vehicles (1972). Port Louis is a large ocean port with a freight turnover of about 2 million tons a year. There is an international airport at Plaisance.

In 1972 exports totaled 573.8 million Mauritian rupees, and imports 635.8 million Mauritian rupees. Exports include sugar (91 percent of the export value in 1970), molasses, tea, and tobacco; imports include mainly food products (35 percent of the import value), machines and equipment (12 percent), and manufactured goods (19 percent). The main trade partners are Great Britain (67.6 percent of the export value and 20.9 percent of the import value in 1970), Canada (20 percent of the export value), the Republic of South Africa (9 percent of imports), Australia (7.3 percent of imports), France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the USA (5.5 percent of imports). The monetary unit is the Mauritian rupee; two rupees are equal to 15 British pence.


Education and cultural affairs. There is no law on compulsory education, but over 90 percent of the children attend elementary schools. The Mauritian educational system is similar to the British system. Children enter the six-year elementary school at the age of five. Students who do not go on to the secondary school after graduating from the sixth grade of the elementary school attend one supplementary year of elementary school (seventh grade). There were about 200,000 students in the elementary schools in the 1972-73 academic year. The seven-year secondary school has two levels, with five and two years of instruction respectively. There were 46,500 students in the secondary schools in the 1970-71 academic year. Vocational schools, which admit graduates of the first level of the secondary schools, had 603 students in the 1968-69 academic year.

Elementary school teachers undergo two years of training after graduating from a complete secondary school; there were 668 such students in the 1969-70 academic year. Higher education is provided by a university in Port Louis, founded in 1965, which had 3,000 students in the 1970-71 academic year.

The cultural institutions of Port Louis are represented by the library of the Mauritius Institute (42,000 volumes), the Public Library (over 40,000 volumes), the Carnegie Library (25,000 volumes), the Port Louis Museum (founded in 1885), the Historical Museum (1950), the Art Gallery (1922), and the Mauritius Herbarium (1960).



Burgh-Edwardes, S. B. de. The History of Mauritius. London, 1921.
Toussaint, A. Port Louis: Deux siecles d’histoire, 1735-1935. Port Louis, 1936.
Barnwell, P. J., and A. Toussaint. Short History of Mauritius. London, 1949.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Mauritius

Capital city: Port Louis

Internet country code: .mu

Flag description: Four equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, yellow, and green

National anthem: “Glory to thee, Motherland” (first line), lyrics by Jean Georges Prosper, music by Philippe Gentil

National flower: Trochetia Boutoniana (Boucle d’Oreille)

Geographical description: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar

Total area: 720 sq. mi. (1,865 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)

Nationality: noun: Mauritian(s); adjective: Mauritian

Population: 1,250,882 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, Sino-Mauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%

Languages spoken: Creole (common), French, English (offi­cial), Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri

Religions: Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.4%

Legal Holidays:

All Saints' DayNov 1
Assumption DayAug 15
Christmas DayDec 25
Labour DayMay 1
National DayMar 12
New Year holidayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


an island and state in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar: originally uninhabited, it was settled by the Dutch (1638--1710) then abandoned; taken by the French in 1715 and the British in 1810; became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1968. It is economically dependent on sugar. Official language: English; a French creole is widely spoken. Religion: Hindu majority, large Christian minority. Currency: rupee. Capital: Port Louis. Pop.: 1 233 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1865 sq. km (720 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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