Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in 1505.
In 1638 the Dutch arrived and began colonizing the island, appointing governors and setting up trade connections. However, hardships quickly fell on the Dutch colony in the form of pest infestations, cyclones, droughts, and lack of food. Less than a hundred years after settlement the Dutch deserted the colonies.
Not long after the Dutch abandoned Mauritius, the French arrived and constructed a naval base and shipbuilding center they called Port Louis. The French lost the island amidst the Napoleonic wars as Britain successfully overpowered the base in 1810.
Under British ruling Robert Townsend Farquhar was governor, and initiated rapid social and economical changes - the most important being the abolishment of slavery in 1835.
In 1936, following conflicts between the Indian community and Franco-Mauritians, the Mauritius Labor Party was founded. This coalition became a catalyst in the push for an independent nation, which was achieved in 1968.
The government is elected every five years, with the most recent elections having taken place in December 2014, in the l'Alliance Lepep and elected Sir Anerood Jugnauth of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) as Prime Minister. The elections generally are held between two major parties.
Since gaining their independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed into a diversified economy. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 25% of the nation's export.
It has the seventh-highest GDP per capita in Africa. In 2009, according to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, the Mauritius government was rated the highest among African countries for its participation and human rights and its sustainable economic opportunity.