History of Réunion
Arab sailors formerly called the island Adna Al Maghribain (“The closest of the two western islands”). Chola navy landed in the island during 11th century and called it as Theemai Theevu, which means Island of destruction referring to the presence of volcanoes in the Island, which is inscribed on the Tanjore inscription of 1050AD. The Portuguese are thought to have been the first European visitors, finding it uninhabited in 1635, and naming it after Saint Apollonia.
The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louis, Mauritius. Although the French flag was hoisted by François Cauche in 1638, Santa Apollonia was officially claimed by Jacques Pronis of France in 1642, when he deported a dozen French mutineers to the island from Madagascar. The convicts were returned to France several years later, and in 1649, the island was named Île Bourbon after the royal house. Colonization started in 1665, when the French East India Company sent the first 20 settlers.
“Réunion” was the name given to the island in 1793 by a
decree of the Convention with the fall of the House of Bourbon in France, and
the name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from Marseille with the National
Guard in Paris, which took place on 10 August 1792. In 1801, the island was
renamed "Île Bonaparte," after Napoleon Bonaparte. The island
was invaded by a Royal Navy squadron led by Commodore Josias Rowley in 1810,
who used the old name of “Bourbon”. When it was restored to France
by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the island retained the name of "Bourbon"
until the fall of the restored Bourbons during the French Revolution of 1848,
when the island was once again given the name “Réunion”.
Map of Réunion
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 reduced the importance of the island as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.
During the Second World War, Réunion was under the authority of the Vichy Regime until 30 November 1942, when the island was liberated by the destroyer Léopard.
Réunion became a département d'outre-mer (overseas départment) of France on 19 March 1946. Its département code is 974.
Between 15 and 16 March 1952, Cilaos at the centre of Réunion received 1,869.9 millimetres (73.62 in) of rainfall. This is the greatest 24-hour precipitation total ever recorded on earth. The island also holds the record for most rainfall in 72 hours, 3,929 millimetres (154.7 in) at Commerson's Crater in March 2007 from Cyclone Gamede.
In 2005 and 2006, Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of chikungunya, a disease spread by mosquitoes. According to the BBC News, 255,000 people on Réunion had contracted the disease as of 26 April 2006. Madagascar had also been hit by this disease during the same year. A few cases also appeared in mainland France through airline travel. Then French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin sent an emergency aid package worth 36 million euros ($57.6M U.S. dollars) and deployed approximately five hundred French troops in an effort to eradicate mosquitoes.