• An integral part of Mauritian history

    Maroon activity has been part of the history of Mauritius since the first attempt of colonization by the Dutch. It has been said that soon after the Dutch claimed the island for themselves, 105 Malagasy slaves were brought to the island to complement the garrisons of 25 and 30 men in 1638 and 1639 respectively. Among the 105 slaves, 60 ran away to the forests and only 20 were recaptured.

This experience marks the first instance of maroonage, which has filled the Mauritian imagination both past and present, slave and colonists alike, with tales of freedom as well as perceived and real threats.  The maroons were not only those who attempted to leave their plantations definitively, but also those who might leave for short periods of time. Richard Allen writes:

“The data at our disposal indicate that an average of four to five percent of the colony's slaves fled from their masters each year during the last third of the eighteenth century, and that by the early 1820s maroonage rates had climbed to a stunning 11-13 % of a slave population that numbered between 62,000- 65,000. The abolition of slavery early in 1835 did not bring an end to this problem; an average of 7.7 % of the island's apprentices were apprehended for desertion each year between 1835-37, a figure which may represent only one-half of all such illegal absences.”[1]

Maroonage and vagrancy were met with fierce repression, with the chasse des marrons – meaning literally, maroon hunt – occurring in order to keep the colonial establishment and slavery system in place and inflicting great physical and psychological harm to those who were concerned.


[1] Richard Allen, “Maroonage and its legacy in Mauritius and in the colonial plantation world”.Outremers 89, No. 336: 133

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