Reunion - timeline

Before the early sixteenth century and the arrival of the Portuguese Reunion has little recorded history. Arab traders were familiar with it by the name Dina Morgabin. The island possibly features on a map from 1153 AD by Al Sharif el-Edrisi. The island may also have been visited by Malay or Swahili sailors.
  • 1504 - The first European to sight Reunion is Diego Fernandez Peteira, he calls the island Santa Apolonia which suggests that the date of the discovery may have been February 9, her feast day.
  • 1509 - Diogo Lopes de Sequeira is said to have landed on the islands of Reunion and Rodrigues.
  • 1513 - Dom Pedro Mascarenhas navigates in the vicinity of Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues; in 1528 explorer Diogo Rodrigues (after whom the island of Rodrigues is named) names the islands collectively the Mascarene Islands after Mascarenhas.
  • 1611 - Returning from Java Dutch captain Pieter Willemsz. Verhoeff sees Reunion on December 27th but doesn't stop.
  • 1613 - On 23rd-24th March returning from Ceylon Captain Samuel Castleton onboard The Pearl stops at Reunion which he names England's Forest. He describes a paradisiacal island with turtles, turtledoves, parrots, ibis, eels, ducks, geese… 
  • 1638 - François Cauche and Salomon Goubert first claim possession of Reunion for France on June 25th.
  • 1642 - On June 29th Jacques Pronis claims Reunion for France for the second time.
  • 1646 - 12 mutineers from Fort Dauphin (Madagascar) are sent to Reunion and abandoned there until August 1649.
  • 1649 - On September 7th the mutineers are taken back to Madagascar. As the mutineers had survived on the island for three years it is declared habitable.  Claim to possession is staked for the third time, this time by Flacourt; the island is named Bourbon after the House of Bourbon and the first map of the island is drawn.

First map of the island, 1649 (source)

  • 1663 - on November 10th the Saint-Charles moors in the bay of Saint Paul. On board are two Frenchmen and ten Malagasy slaves, including three women.
  • 1665 - Start of colonisation. Foundation of the French East India Company and beginning of slavery. Etienne Regnault arrives on July 10th with a group of 20 settlers and becomes the first governor of the new colony.
  • 1667 - birth of the first child known to have been born on the island.
  • 1671 - 76 inhabitants
  • 1680 - Numerous slaves from Madagascar, Africa and India sent to the island.
  • 1686 - 216 inhabitants
  • 1709 - 894 inhabitants
  • 1735 - La Bourdonnais appointed Governor of Ile de France (Mauritius) and Bourbon
  • 1764 - The islands fall under royal authority

1780 map of Reunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues
1780 map of Reunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues (source)

  • 1794 - Bourbon becomes Reunion Island to commemorate the States-General. A decree is passed abolishing slavery but is not applied on the island.
  • 1806 - Reunion is renamed Ile Bonaparte after Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • 1806 (December) -1807 (March) - four cyclones hit Reunion Island. Followed by drought (and starvation), they mark the beginning of the end of the coffee and clove plantations, which are progressively replaced by sugar cane.
  • 1810 - The island is invaded by a British Royal Navy squadron led by Commodore Josias during the Napoleonic Wars and becomes 'Reunion Island' again.
  • 1815 - The island is surrendered to the French once more and renamed Bourbon again. Ile de France remains under British possession
  • 1820 - Cholera epidemic
  • 1841 - The artificial fertilisation method for vanilla is discovered by a local slave, Edmond Albius
  • 1848 - Abolition of slavery frees more than 60,000. Bourbon Island changes its name back to Reunion.
  • 1849 - Creation of the colonial bank
  • 1850 - Smallpox epidemic kills 1,400 people
  • 1852 - Louis Henri Hubert Delisle becomes 
the first Creole governor of the island

1852 Levasseur Map of the Reunion or the Ile. ...
1852 Map of Reunion (Ile Bourbon) (source)

  • 1854 - Work begins on the port at Saint Pierre
  • 1860 - The island's population is 179 000
  • 1863 - Three violent cyclones
  • 1869 - The opening of the Suez Canal reduces the importance of the island as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.
  • 1882 - Inauguration of the railway
  • 1886 - Construction of the port at Pointe des Galets
  • 1900 - First motor car on the island 

1901 map of Reunion 

  • 1904 - Major cyclone
  • 1905 - The island's first theatre (Le Casino) opens in Saint Denis
  • 1906 - An underwater telegraph cable links Reunion Island to mainland France
  • 1911 - Marius-Ary Leblond set up the Leon Dierx Museum

Statue representing Léon Dierx in Saint-Denis,...
Statue representing Léon Dierx in Saint-Denis, Réunion (Wikipedia)

  • 1914 - The colony sends 10 000 Reunionese soldiers to the trenches in eastern France during the first world war; 10% of them died there
  • 1918 - The Reunionese aviator Roland Garros is killed in action during WWI (October 5th)
  • 1919 - Spanish flu epidemic kills more than 5,000 people
  • 1920 - First hydroelectric power station
  • 1928 - Radio Saint Denis begins broadcasting
  • 1929 - The first air connection with mainland France
  • 1932 - Inauguration of the Cilaos road. A major cyclone kills 90 and leaves 41 000 homeless.
  • 1936-37 - Strikes
  • 1939 - War is declared, first contingents leave Reunion
  • 1940 - Reunion comes under the authority of Petain’s Vichy regime
  • 1942 - Reunion switches from supporting the Vichy regime to the Free France regime when  Free French forces take over the island with the destroyer Léopard.
  • 1945 - CFA Franc introduced in Reunion 
  • 1946 - on March 19th Reunion becomes the 87th French department
  • 1948 - Major cyclone - 165 killed, 20 000 homeless
  • 1951 - Creation of the Journal de l'Ile de la Réunion newspaper. Direct telephone line with mainland France via underwater cable.
  • 1959 - Last case of malaria
  • 1963 - The coastal road (Route du Littoral) opens between Saint Denis & La Possession
  • 1975 - The CFA franc is withdrawn in Reunion; on 1st October Reunion stops printing its own stamps.

French stamp overprinted for use in
Reunion, circa 1900 (source)

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