Port Louis History Facts and Timeline

(Port Louis, Mauritius)

Much of the history to be found on the tiny African island of Mauritius revolves around its capital and most populated city, Port Louis. Few other cities of its size worldwide boast as many diverse cultures as are present here - within the five main districts are Creole, Chinese, Hindu, Christian and also Islamic communities.

All of these groups commonly intersect and all have played important roles in the history of Port Louis, whose harbour now welcomes over 20,000 cruise passengers each year.

Noordt Wester Haven

Although Port Louis was already a thriving port prior to European settlement, little is known about the city's history before the first Dutch ships sailed into its harbour in the year of 1598. The Dutch named the settlement Noordt Wester Haven and used it as an important hub for ships sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to South Africa during the Dutch era.

French Settlement

Port Louis did not truly thrive as a port and community until the French arrived on its shores in 1736. The city was actually named after King Louis XV and a statue of the first French governor who reigned over Port Louis, Bertrand-François Mahé de la Labourdonnais, stands in the city's main square to this day. Labourdonnais receives much of the credit for developing this spot into a thriving French military base and trading port.

Tropical Storms, Fires, and Diseases

The 120 years following the early 1770s were tumultuous ones in the history of Port Louis, although the city managed to bounce back from all of the fires, tropical storms and diseases which came its way during this era. Close to 1,000 Port Louis residents perished during an 1819 cholera epidemic, while almost 4,000 people died during a malaria outbreak in the mid-1860s. Many survivors moved to the cooler Central Plateau, but those who remained in Port Louis lost their homes to a powerful cyclone in 1892.

British Rule

Port Louis was briefly renamed Port Napoleon following the French Revolution, honouring the famous French general's rule over the country and its overseas territories. Mauritius became a British territory in 1810 and this rule lasted for almost 160 years.

In the important year of 1835, the British freed the slaves of Mauritius, with most of these slaves originating from Madagascar and countries within mainland Africa. The African slaves, ancestors of today's Mauritian Creoles, were replaced by indentured labourers from India, the ancestors of today's Indo-Mauritians. Much cheap labour also came from Malaysia and China at this time.

Independence and Modernity

In 1947, the Labour Party ousted the Franco-Mauritian elite from power for the first time in the history of Port Louis and the rest of the island. Eventually, the British allowed additional self government in Mauritius and the island achieved full independence in 1968.

Today, Port Louis has become one of the most important ports and financial centres in all of Africa, in addition to its naturally beautiful location surrounded by mountains and some of the Indian Ocean's most outstanding beaches. It thrives off tourist arrivals mostly from France and South Africa.