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British and other European Possessions in Africa. page 4


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Mauritius has much historical interest. Discovered in 1507 by the Portuguese navigator Mascarenhas, it was found to be uninhabited,. and had no sign of any previous occupation. In 1598 the name was bestowed by a Dutch admiral, from his flagship, driven there in a storm, called the Mauritius after Maurice of Nassau, prince of Orange, whom we have seen as a famous "Stadtholder" of the United Netherlands. After long further neglect, some settlements were made by the Dutch, In 1644, but the island was abandoned in 1712, to be occupied, three years later, by the French, long in possession of the neighbouring lie de Bourbon, now Reunion. In 1721, as the "lie de France," Mauritius was given to the French East India Company, and-passed to the French Crown in 1767. During this period the island had been successfully colonised by La Bourdonnais, governor from 1735 to 1746, with the foundation of the capital, Port Louis; the clearing of forests; the making of roads, docks, and forts; and the introduction of the sugar-cane which created the chief trade of the beautiful isle. At a later time the French government made Mauritius a base of very important operations against British trade in the Eastern seas, and the mischief was not stayed until the capture of the island, in 1810, by a powerful expedition dispatched from India. Under French rule the island had steadily risen in value from culture, and had acquired a literary interest from the description of its lovely tropical vegetation in Saint Pierre's Paul et Virginie, published in 1788. In 1814 the Treaty of Paris confirmed British possession, with a guarantee to the French inhabitants of the continued use of their laws, religion, and institutions. The island has, in the course of a century and a half, earned the appellation of "Maurice la Malheureuse." Few territories so small have ever endured so much havoc from divers strokes of calamity. In 1754 it was devastated by a hurricane, and the people were decimated by small-pox. In 1773 a terrible cyclone drove many ships ashore and half-ruined the buildings at Port Louis. In 1819, 1854, and 1862 many thousands died of Asiatic cholera. In 1866-67 an epidemic of malarial fever did more mischief than any former outbreak of pestilence, slaying about 21,000 persons, or above one-fourth of the city's whole population, at the capital. In that dreadful year, 1867, the death-rate for the whole island reached in per thousand. In March, 1868, another cyclone wrought ravage on the plantations, destroying canes which should have produced 60,000 tons of sugar. In April, 1892, one-third of Port Louis was destroyed by the worst of all the cyclones, with the loss of 1,000 lives, and the ruin of all the houses over 30 acres of the best residential quarter. A bad bank-failure, small-pox, and very fatal influenza, quickly followed the cyclone; and in July, 1893, a fire destroyed, at Port Louis, nearly all that the cyclone had spared, reducing to ashes 15 acres of the best shops and other commercial buildings.

We need only notice further that Madeira and the Cape Verd Isles were settled by Portugal in 1419 and about 1460, remaining since, save Madeira for a brief period of British occupation, in her possession; that the Canary Islands (Canaries), first discovered in 1334, through a French vessel being driven among them in a storm, were finally conquered, from brave natives called Guanches, by Spain in 1495; that St. Helena, discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, and held by the Dutch and English in turns until 1693, came then into the possession of the East India Company; that the island was the residence of the dethroned Napoleon Bonaparte from 1815 till 1821, and was transferred to the Crown in 1833; and that Ascension, discovered by a Portuguese navigator on Ascension-day, 1501, was first occupied in 1816, as a military and naval post in connection with Napoleon's detention at St. Helena, becoming in later years a naval victualling-station, hospital, and coal-depot.

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Pictures for British and other European Possessions in Africa. page 4

Africa, 1898.
Africa, 1898. >>>>

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