Mauritius has a very rich history having been laid claim to by many countries. Arab and Malay sailors were the first to discover Mauritius as early as the 10th century but never lived on the island. The Portuguese arrived in 1507 naming the island Ilha do Cerne meaning 'Island of the Swan' which is believed to be referring to the once prevalent Dodo population.
The Dutch named the island after the Prince Maurice of Nassau when they arrived at the island in 1598. However, it was only in 1638 that the island was first properly colonized by the Dutch with the introduction of sugar cane and slaves. In 1639 Adriaen van der Stel, the father of the famous governor of the Cape of Good Hope: Simon van der Stel, became the chief of the island as the Dutch sought to increase the agriculture and infrastructure on the island.They eventually abandoned the colony after years of failed crops leaving their slaves and animals behind.
In 1715 the French laid claim to Mauritius and renamed it Isle de France. It became a prosperous colony under the French East India Company with the island serving as a naval and privateer base during the Napoleonic wars. Mauritius was later captured by the British, however, French institutions such as roads, hospitals, and the Napoleonic code of law, were all maintained. The French language is still more widely spoken than English even though English is the official language of Mauritius.
Slavery was abolished in Mauritius in 1835 leading to a mass immigration of Indian workers looking to make a livelihood working on the sugar plantations. Mauritius later won their independence from Britain in 1968 but would only become a republic in 1992.
With its diverse history, Mauritius has been a crucible for the many cultures that have landed on its shores. Having had a stable democracy and good human rights record through its history, the island stands as one of Africa's success stories.