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Mauritius - Britain's 'Great Experiment'

mauritius britains great experiment

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Mauritius was under British rule, and important for its sugar industry.

Slaves were shipped in, mainly from East Africa and forced to work on these plantations.

As sugar was so profitable, Mauritius was one of the last British colonies to abolish slavery in 1835.

As Mauritius' economy was dominated by sugarcane production, the British needed another workforce to replace slaves.

To demonstrate the superiority of 'free' labour over slaves, the British created a new system- indentured labour.

Mauritius was chosen as the first site for this system, which was known as 'the great experiment'.

As another British colony, indentured labourers were mainly brought in from India.

Many would be sent to work on the sugar plantations, while others were transferred elsewhere.

'The Great Experiment' in Mauritius was so successful, it was adopted by other colonial powers from the 1840s.

This resulted in a world-wide migration of more than two million indentured labourers, with Mauritius receiving almost half a million.

'The Great Experiment' only ended around 1918, during World War I, due to 'declining profitability'.

Two thirds of indentured labourers who arrived in Mauritius settled on the island, and nearly 70% of modern Mauritians have Indian ancestry.


Slavery is involuntary forced labour without compensation.

Indentured labour is a contractual agreement between two parties that one will perform labour in exchange for something (usually a ship passage, or to pay off debt).

Indentured servitude was often brutal, in difficult conditions, with little to no pay, and a high percentage of servants dying prior to the end of their contract.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines it as a form of slavery.



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