The first Europeans to have visited Mauritius were the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century (most probably in 1510). The Dutch who settled in the island in 1598 named it Mauritius after Prince Maurice of Nassau. Among other things, the Dutch introduced sugar cane and the Java deer before leaving in 1710 where they had found in the mean time a far better settling place: The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. About five years later, in 1715, the French occupied the island, renaming it "Isle de France".
It was under the French Governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais, that Mauritius knew its first development: a harbour was built. Port Louis, named after the ruling king Louis XV, became the capital of Mauritius. Trade on the island thrived; Mauritius could supply enough sugar and rum to the surrounding islands and visiting vessels.
From this strategic position in the Indian Ocean, the French were plaguing English vessels on their way to and from India.
In 1810, the British conquered the island which they occupied, and Mauritius was formally ceded to them in the "Traiti de Paris" of 1814. Most of the French settlers, remained on the island and were allowed to keep their customs, religion and laws.
A few years later, in 1835, the British abolished slavery - slaves at the time came from Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique mainly - and this led to the importation of Indian indentured labourers to work in the sugar cane fields. They eventually settled in Mauritius and their descendants constitute nowadays the majority of the population.
Rapid development of the infrastructure continued. Free primary education was given to the population so that local civil servants could be trained to run the affairs of the country.
Mauritius achieved independence on 12 March 1968 and adopted a constitution based on the British parliamentary system. The first post-independence years were difficult but after more than 15 years of planning and hard work, Mauritius achieved economic and political stability. Mauritius changed its status to that of a Republic on 12 March 1992.
The Mauritian Constitution is based on the Westminister model. Political power is vested in the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Elections are held every five years.