British Take Over And Late French Colonial Society
French colonial society before the British period was a slave society with the white at the top of the pyramid and the others, the coloured, Indians and Africans at the bottom. When the British took over, the population of the island was made up of about 7000 white settlers, 7000 coloured, 6000 Indians and 60000 slaves. The economy was mainly an agricultural/subsistence economy. This based on the cultivation of crops such as cotton, indigo and corn/maize. Corn was, for example, largely used as the staple food of the population and was provided to the ships that called in the port. Sugar cane was also planted but was used only in the production of arack (rhum).
Other important features at that time were trade and commerce. Port Louis was a free port used as an ‘entrepot’ where Western and Eastern goods were exchanged and traded. The administration of the island was well developed with the existence of a civil service and different tribunals. This meant that attorneys, notaries and other jobs related to the judiciary were already well established over the island. Finally one should note that at that time there existed two parallel legal systems, one for the white and one for the blacks under the Code Napoleon.
WHY DID THE BRITISH WANT TO COME TO MAURITIUS?
To understand the British take-over of the island, one has to focus on the strategic importance of Ile de France at that time. The Napoleonic period was a period of bitter rivalry between French and English forces. This rivalry was very much presented in the Indian Ocean where the main subject of conflict was the Indian Peninsula. India was almost completely in the hands of the British and the Napoleonic forces wanted to capture India. Ile de France thus had a strategic position because of its good labour. It was the port of call of the French naval forces fighting the British in the Indian Ocean. The French preyed on British ships in the Indian Ocean...