Reunion Facts

Reunion Facts and History


Réunion – Europe’s southernmost area

The Île de la Réunion (dt. Island of the Union) is spreading in the Indian Ocean, but as a French overseas department it belongs to France. Thus, La Réunion represents the southernmost European area in the world. Until 1793 the island was still called Le Bourbon and with its name it honored the French aristocratic family of the Bourbons. After the French Revolution this fell out of favor, so that the island was renamed La Réunion. The island is the westernmost of the Mascarene Islands, which also includes Mauritius and Rodríguez.

La Réunion is both touristy and famous for its vanilla cultivation. When it comes to the latter, just think of the famous bourbon vanilla.

Historically, the “graveyard of lost souls” is of great importance. It is located in the town of Saint Louis near the Le Gol sugar factory. Here are buried with the priest and fighter against slavery, Pere Jean Lafosse (1745-1820), the victims of the slave revolt of 1811.

A slave had betrayed the insurgents and about 150 insurgents were killed and thrown into a mass grave.

Name of the country La Réunion or L’Île de la Réunion
Form of government Réunion is not an independent state, but a French overseas department.
Geographical location Réunion is located in the Indian Ocean about 800 kilometers east of Madagascar.
National anthem La Marseillaise
Population Approx. 850,000 (Credit: Countryaah: Reunion Facts)
Ethnicities Creoles (around 45%)Indians (around 25%)

Europeans (around 20%)

and Chinese

Religions Mainly Christians, but also Muslims and Hindus.
Languages The official language is French. Creole is also spoken.
Capital Saint Denis
Surface 2,500 km²
Highest mountain Piton des Neiges with a height of 3,069 m
Longest river Rivière-du-Mât with a length of 35 km
International license plate F.
National currency Euro
Time difference to CET + 3h
International phone code 00262
Mains voltage, frequency 220 volts and 50 hertz
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .re

Réunion: history

From the beginnings to European colonization

Before the first Europeans would venture into the Indian Ocean in the 16th century, it was only the Arabs and Austronesians who explored it. They had known the Mascarene Islands since the 10th century: Réunion called them Diva Maghrebin (Arab. West Island), Mauritius Diva Harab (Arab. Abandoned or desert island) and Rodrigues Diva Mashriq (Arab. East Island). The Mascarens appeared on a European map for the first time in 1502. Just four years earlier, the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama had sailed the Indian Ocean and thus initiated the beginning of European colonization. The Portuguese Pedro Mascarenhas discovered it in 1512 while looking for a suitable sea route to Indiathe mascarenes named after him; He called Réunion Santa Apollonia. The English pirate Blackwell (or was it the Dutch Admiral Verhuff?) Discovered the island for himself in 1613 and called it England’s forest. However, the Mascarenes were claimed for the first time by France as early as 1638 and again in 1942. The French Madagascar governor Étienne de Flacourt then took possession of the island for the third time and named it after the French noble family of the Bourbons, Île Bourbon. But it wasn’t until 1663 that Le Bourbon became a full-fledged French colony. The first French settlers were accompanied by so-called serviteurs from Madagascar, who had the status of slaves.

From the 17th to the 19th century

According to Abbreviationfinder website, in 1667, the two cities of Saint-Denis and Sainte-Suzanne were founded, but it wasn’t until 1700 that France recognized the importance of Le Bourbon for the French sea route. Coffee has been grown on the island since 1718, which marked the beginning of a period of economic boom. Slaves from Africa and Madagascar were used on the coffee plantations early on. In 1738, Saint-Denis replaced Saint-Paul as the capital. The island is increasingly becoming an export destination for spices.

With the French Revolution and the fall of the Bourbons, the island is renamed La Réunion. The name – in German island of the union – referred to the union of the revolutionaries from Marseilleduring the storming of the Tuileries with the National Guard; through this historical event, the Bourbon king Louis XVI. chased from the throne. But tensions soon arose between the revolutionary leadership and the colonial assembly, because the latter refused to comply with the demands from Paris and to abolish slavery. Everything escalated and in 1798 Réunion was considered “lawless” by metropolitan France. The island becomes autonomous. But when Napoléon seized power, La Réunion returned to France and was renamed Île Bonaparte. Sugar cane has been grown on the island since 1807.

Between 1808 and 1815 the island was besieged, occupied and finally taken over by the British. Only with the re-establishment of royal France does the island, now renamed Le Bourbon, go back to the French. With the proclamation of the French Republic in 1948, it got its old name back, Réunion, even if it now refers to the unity with the French nation. In the same year, slavery is abolished. The island, which functioned as a French colony until 1946, now no longer brings slaves to the island, but poorly paid workers, which also lead to a population explosion. Between 1848 and 1882, La Réunion’s population doubled.

In 1849 the first general elections were held on Réunion. The infrastructural situation on the island is also improving.

From the 20th century to the present

After the Second World War, La Réunion received the status of a French overseas department in 1946, i.e. a department d’outre-mer, making the island an integral part of France. This ends the colonial era on Réunion; the island is modernized considerably and in 1957 it becomes part of the European Economic Community.

Michel Debré, elected to the National Assembly by the people of Réunion in 1963, organized an unprecedented resettlement of more than 1,000 children from Réunion to mainland France in the years following his election. The children have simply been torn out of their families in order to be integrated into less populated departments.

Since 1976 there has been a separate Catholic diocese on Réunion, the first bishop of which was Gilbert Aubry. In 1996 the social system in Réunion was finally brought into line with that in France. In addition, with the Treaty of Amsterdam signed in 1997, Réunion has the special status of a region in the outermost edge of the Union (French: région ultra-périphérique) within the European Union. The advantages of this status are considerable trade facilities.

Reunion Facts