a hot rock mantis production
a short history of Reunion Island
Ile de la Réunion
The original and most informative
English language guide to the island
The Present -
a new beginning ...
The recent history of the island can be seen in the light of the attempts of France to retain a political and economic foothold (stronghold?) in the Indian Ocean. Once Réunion was isolated from Mauritius it was to play an integral part in French attempts to colonise and retain Madagascar within its sphere of influence. An excellent account of this period of French colonialism by Prof. Y. Beal of the University of Réunion can be found here.
Réunion was made a department in 1946, and it became an administrative region in 1974, although was relatively ignored until development really took off in the 1980's.
Many ask the question as to why France is so keen on retaining its grasp on the island and why the island lacks any real independence movement - see the site of the only pro-independence, anti-colonial newspaper here.The answer is both economical and political and even then one has to read between the lines. Thanks to the international convention at Montego Bay, France has access to an enormous fishing zone around Réunion - some 318,300 km2 and this along with its other Indian Ocean dependencies grants the French govt. a huge 'exclusive economic zone'. Not that France exploits this itself but it rents out the fishing rights mainly to fleets from Taiwan. What it is doing to protect this vast resource is another question!
Réunion is also an important point strategically and one need only remember the history of Diego Garcia to see this point. Don't remember Diego Garcia? - well the UK govt. would like to forget it which shows that France isn't the only culprit in the cynical exploitation of the region.
Réunion is an extremely popular tourist destination for the French - even if no one else knows about it - As the "Guide Routard" points out, the French love to "voyageur très loin tout en restant chez eux".
Finally, Réunion, like many of the DOM, has become a paradise for the "functionaires' a sort of bureaucrats playground where they are thoroughly spoilt with bonuses and allowances whcih does very little to alleviate the great disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor.
A superb article on French colonial history as presented to the Australian congress of historical science in 2005 by Yvan Combeau is well worth reading and puts much of recent French activity in the region into perspective.
A site dedicated to the role of women in the history of Réunion is a welcome breath of fresh air in the torrid climate of sweaty masculine paternalistic history - there who said I was objective?
For an opinion on slavery in Francophone countries look here.