The first European to visit the island was the Portuguese explorer Nuno
Tristão in 1443. In 1445, Prince Henry the Navigator set up a trading
post on the island, which acquired gum arabic and slaves for Portugal.
By 1455, 800 slaves were shipped from Arguin to Portugal every year.
In 1633, during its war against Spain (which then controlled
Portugal), the Netherlands seized control of Arguin. It remained under
Dutch rule until 1678, although Dutch governance was interrupted by
English rule in 1665. France briefly controlled the island in September
1678, but the island was then abandoned until 1685.
Arguin was a colony of the German electorate of Brandenburg, and its
successor, the Kingdom of Prussia, from 1685 to 1721. France then took
control of the island, only to lose it again the following year to the
Netherlands. France regained it in 1724. This period of French rule
lasted four years, because, in 1728, it reverted to the control of
Mauritanian tribal chiefs. The island became a French possession once
more during the early twentieth century, as part of the French colony,
Mauritania, and it remained under Mauritanian rule when that country
became independent in 1960.
The Dutch Settlements (1638-1658 and 1664-1710)
The first Dutchman visiting the island was in 1598, Wybrant Warwijck
that renamed the island after the Dutch stadholder Maurits.
During the first 40 years of Dutch activity in the East, Mauritius
was often used by the VOC ships in search of fresh food as a call
station, but they never built, during these years, a permanent
settlement. The greatest raw materials of the island were ebony and wild
animals like the notorius Dodo, pigs, goats and tortoises.
In the 1630s. the presence of a permanent Dutch settlement in
Mauritius was judged necessary by the VOC to prevent the occupation of
the island by the French or the English companies. Finally the
Hollanders settled on the East coast of the island in the south-eastern
harbour which they called "Haven van Warwijck", where the town of Vieux
Grand Port now stands.
GOVERNORS YEARS Cornelis Gooyer 1638-1639 Adriaen van der Stel
1639-1645 Jacob van der Meersch 1645-1648 Reiner Por 1648-1653
Maximiliaan de Jongh 1653-1656 Abraham Evertsz 1656-1658 No Dutch
Occupation 1658-1664 Jacobus van Nieuwlant 1664-1665 George Wreede
1665-1673 Hubert Hugo 1673-1677 Isaac Lamotius 1677-1692 Roelof Diodati
1692-1703 Adriaan Momber van der Velde 1703-1710
Here, in May 1638, they built a square wooden fort with bastions and
cannons at each corner, which was named Fort Frederik Hendrik. This fort
was garrisoned, at first, by a force of 25 Dutchmen under the command of
the first governor: Cornelis Gooyer. The fort was finished on 29 August
In 1639 a new governor was appointed, he was Adriaen van der Stel,
the father of the then famous governor of the Cape of Good Hope: Simon
van der Stel, that was born in Mauritius during his father government of
the island. The new governor rebuilt the fort and armed it with 14
cannons, the garrison was enlarged to 80 men, the first slaves were
imported from Madagascar and in order to develop this "trade" in 1642 a
Dutch factory was established in the Bay of Antongil (N-E Madagascar)
this factory was closed at the end of the year 1646. During van der Stel
government, were also did several attempt to develop agricolture (sugar
cane, vegetables, fruit trees), but because of rats all they failed.
The Dutch settlements in Mauritius Top In 1645, Adriaen van der Stel
was transferred and Jacob van der Meersch became the new governor,
during his government the wood-cutting of ebony trees was developed, a
five km road was built in Flacq in order to improve it, and several
burghers settled in the island. In 1655, during the government of Reiner
Por there were, in the three settlements of the island (Grand Port Bay,
Flacq and Trou d'Eau Douce), 100 peoples amongst planters with theirs
families and slaves, and 60 VOC employes, a new attempt to introduce
agricolture in a bigger scale was done, but too this time the
cultivations were destroyed by the rats, this was the coup de grace to
the weak economy of the island, actually, in 1658 the VOC decided to
abandon the colony.
The last governor Abraham Evertsz in 1658 destroyed the fort Frederik
Hendrik and with the remaining 40 inhabitants abandoned Mauritius.
Between 1658 to 1664 Mauritius was uninhabited, except for several
In 1663, the VOC ordered the governor of the Cape colony to
restablished the Dutch settlement in Mauritius. In the summer of the
1664, a ship under the new governor Jacobus Nieuwlant anchored in the
"Haven van Warwijck" were there were the ruins of the old fort Frederik
Hendrik. Nieuwlant government was short, he died at the end of May 1665.
George Wreede was appointed as governor, he start again the
ebony-cutting and attempt were made to develop farming.
In 1673, after the dead of Wreede, Hubert Hugo became governor, he
was an excellent commander, he developed farming, repaired the fort,
built a new church, a saw mill, a tannery and 16 km of road (in Flacq).
The population of the island incresed. The Burghers had settled around
the island: in the present area of Flacq (the main settlement), Black
River and Port Louis.
In 1677, Isaac Lamotius was appointed as new governor of Fort
Frederik Hendrik, the garrison was 55 soldiers and slaves, the Burghers
were 32. During the Lamotius government were killed the last Dodos. In
1692, Roelof Diodati became governor, he was of Swiss-Italian descent.
In 1695, a big hurricane devasted the island, several of the Burghers
lost all theirs crops, many left the island. In 1703, was appointed the
last Dutch governor of Mauritius: Adriaan Momber van der Velde, during
his government, the island economy tried by misfortune was reduced in
extreme poverty, the VOC, in 1706 finally decided to evacuate the
island, at that time the Dutch population was of 48 VOC servants, 32
Burghers (5 were living in Black River, 15 in the North-Western harbour
and 12 in Flacq) with 24 wives and 69 children, there were also 71
slaves; in total 244 persons.
In February 1710, the last Dutchman left Mauritius
Remains of Fort Frederick Hendrick and a small museum about the Dutch
settlement; monument (1998) commemorating the place where the Dutch
landed in 1598 at Vieux Port.