History and Culture of Mauritius. Arab and Swahili sailors knew of Mauritius before the 1500s. Portuguese explorers visited in the early sixteenth century. In 1638 the Dutch made attempts to colonize and inhabit the island. They brought small numbers of African slaves and introduced sugarcane to the island. Mauritius History and Culture Information and Travel Guide. Vacation package Book. Trouble maintaining the settlements led to their total abandonment in about 1710. Five years later, Dusfrene d'Arsel claimed the island for France. The French already had nearby Réunion Island, and with these geographic holds the Mascarene Islands became an important base for attacks on British possessions in wartime. Under French rule Mauritius developed colonial plantation patterns. The British attacked and captured the strategic islands in 1810. Réunion was given back to the French four years later because of the lack of good harbors. The Mauritius culture saw little change with the English takeover. The Cape of Good Hope was a more prized British possession, and subsequently little capital and effort was put into the Mauritian economy.