The Philatelist’s Pick: A Journey to the past through our philatelic heritage

For my first blog post, I have chosen to take you on a journey to the history of Mauritius, through a series of 20 postage stamps issued in 1978. This set of postage stamps was issued on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Independence of Mauritius, on 12 March 1978. The stamps illustrate some of the main events that made the history of the country, from its discovery to independence. In total, four covers and an explanatory booklet were issued.

Mauritius was uninhabited until the end of the 16th Century, though it is thought to have been regularly visited by Malay, Arabs and Portuguese sailors, on their way to Asia. 

In 1598, the Dutch took possession of the island and named it Mauritius, after Prince Maurice Van Nassau, Prince of Orange. However, the attempts of the Dutch to colonise the island were unsuccessful. 

The French settled in 1735 and named the island Isle de France. The island developed into a fruitful colony under the administration of Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais, who introduced sugar cane and brought in slaves to work on the plantations. 

The British wanted to conquer the island and entered into war with the French in 1810. They lost the battle in August 1810, but later on, in November 1810, landed on the island, overcame the French defence and took possession of the island, which they renamed Mauritius. Mauritius finally became independent on 12th March 1968 and a Republic in 1992.

This set of stamps below highlights the main milestones in the social, economic and political history of Mauritius. Each stamp depicts a personality, a landscape or a scene of ordinary life, which all contributed to make of Mauritius what it is today: a proud, a multi-cultural nation. 

1978 12 March - New definitive issue 2
This first cover depicts the following: (i) 35cs illustrates the Official Act of Sovereignty by the French, who took possession of the island on 1715, renamed Isle de France. This demonstrates the strategic importance of Mauritius; (ii) 50cs depicts Port-Louis, which was built around 1736 under the directions of Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais; (iii) 60cs pictures Pierre Poivre, one of the key figures of Mauritian history. He was responsible for the introduction of a variety of spices and created the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden; (iv) 70cs is a map of Mauritius, drawn by the astronomer and geographer Abbé de la Caille, who made a detailed survey of Mauritius and his observations were introduced in a map of 1763; (v) Rs. 15 depicts the independence celebrations on 12 March 1968. On that day, the Mauritius flag unfurled for the first time.
1978 12 March - New definitive issue 3
The second cover includes 5 stamps: (i) Rs. 1.25 which shows the ball organised by Lady Gomm and one of the celebrated first day covers of the ‘Post Office’ issue; (ii) Rs 1.50 showing the Indian indentured labourers, who arrived in 1834 after the abolition of slavery; (iii) Rs. 2 shows horse racing introduced by the British. The Mauritius Turf Club organised the first race in 1812; (iv) Rs. 3 represents the Place d’Armes, opposite the Government House, the main square in Port-Louis. It was originally the training site of the military corps. (v) Rs. 5 marking the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, who visited Mauritius in 1901. A souvenir postcard was issued on that occasion.
1978 12 March - New difinitive issue 4
This third cover shows the following stamps: (i) 75cs: the first coin minted in silver in 1810; (ii) 90cs, showing a scene of Battle of Grand Port. Mauritius had become a hub for French corsairs who were frustrating the British commercial interests in the Indian Ocean. In 1810, the British forces attacked Mauritius but were defeated in the Battle of Grand Port; (iii) Re. 1 shows the landing of the British on 29 November 1840, following the Battle of Grand Port to overturn the French; (iv) Rs. 1.20 depicts a view of the Government House during the British period around 1840. (v) Rs. 10 depicts the Royal College of Curepipe, one of the most prestigious secondary schools in Mauritius
1978 12 March - New definitive stamp issue 1
This fourth cover has the following stamps: (i) 10cs pictures a Portuguese map from 1519 – Although Arab sailors knew the location of Mauritius, this Portuguese map is the earliest accurate record of the island. The Portuguese called the island Ilha do Cerne; (ii) 15cs shows the first settlement in Mauritius. The Dutch visited the island in 1598 and called it Mauritius after their Prince Maurice Van Nassau; (iii) 20cs is a detailed Dutch map dating from around 1700, during the time the island was occupied by the Dutch; (iv) 25cs is Rodrigues, when it was first settled in 1698 by Francois Leguat. The stamp shows a plate of the book of Leguat’s account; (v) Rs 25 features the first Governor of Mauritius, Sir Abdool Raman Mohamed Osman (on the left) and the first Prime Minister of Mauritius, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.



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