Reunion Island

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First discovered at the beginning of the 16th century by the Portuguese Pedro MASCARENHAS, in 1638 the “Saint-Alexis” ship captain come to the island and take possession of it on behalf of the French king Louis the 13th and names it Macarin. In 1649 the island is officially laid claim by the king of France and renamed by the governor FLACOURT “Bourbon Island” borrowed from the royal French dynasty name. It is still inhabited until 1654 year in which the first occupants, 14 mutineers essentially men expelled (1654) from FORT DAUPHIN this French trading post in Madagascar; settle down in a cave of Saint-Paul coast. Their stay ends up three years and half later, as they go away on board of the “Thomas Guillaume” whose captain is a certain Gosselin, who stopped over in Reunion on the 28th of May 1658 to get supplies.

In November 1663, Louis PAYEN comes to settle down in Saint-Paul, accompanied by another French man and 10 Malagasy people among them 3 women. The Malagasy run away to the mountains where they conceive the first reunioneese.

In 1664, the French “Compagnie des Indes orientales” is given the monopoly of trading in the Indian Ocean by the king Louis the 14th.

On the 5Th of august 1665 Etienne REGNAULT the envoy of COLBERT and the “compagnie des indes orientales” accompanied by 20 men are the first official settlers. They settle down near the pool of Saint-Paul.

Etienne REGNAULT affected to the entries under Colbert is appointed as the governor of Bourbon. On the 10th of March 1667, M.MONDEVERGUE arrives to Fort Dauphin after having stopped over in Bourbon where he left 5 women. M MONDEVERGUE is the messenger transmitting the instructions of COLBERT (creator of the “Compagnie des Indes Orientales”) for the organisation of Bourbon island colonisation. On the 7th of April 1671, the first French military squad arrives to Bourbon under the orders of the lieutenant commander Jacob de la Haye.

In 1685, with 260 settlers, Bourbon is a den for the pirates. The “Compagnie des Indes Orientales” decides to stop their trade and take control of the island.

In 1715, introduction of the first coffee trees, 6 coffee cuttings from Yemen, and the Moka coffee marks the debut of the development of the island and the coffee crop becomes the most important production of the island. On the 8th of July 1727 Benoît DUMAS then governor intensifies the growing of coffee “nothing can be more beautiful than the coffee plantations multiplying them endless” is what he writes in a letter addressed to the minister on the 27th of April 1728. “This island in a short term will be able to provide beyond the kingdom consumption”.

Benoît DUMAS by the same time dealt with the development of the number of slaves in Bourbon. Then, transferred to the direct administration of the crown, the island is named “Reunion” by the convention 1793. Placed under the English domination from 1810 to 1815, the island knows half of century of prosperity thanks to the introduction by its occupants of the sugar cane culture.

As soon as 1865 the collapse of the sugar market is going to change this thriving situation.

Despite the construction of the railway in 1882 and the digging of the “Pointe de galets” port in 1886, Reunion will know a slump period and will go through two difficult ordeals. The First World War which will cause about 3000 dead, followed by the horrifying epidemic of Spanish flu causing between 5 to 10 thousand deads. Then, in the twenties begins a slight recovery quickly interrupted by the start of the Second World War. Reunion Island will suffer from an embargo during which, its rally to the free France in November 1942 will end up partially this hardship.

The law of the “assemblée constituante” voted on the 19th of March 1946 transforms the 4 colonies and among them Reunion in French departments. However the administrative unwieldiness and the deterioration of the economy are so important that it will be necessary to wait for the beginning of the sixties to set a real development policy. The former Prime Minister Michel DEBRE elected deputy of the first circumscription in 1963, involves Reunion Island in a voluntaristic process of development and assimilation to the mother country.

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