Abstract

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, La Réunion, which had barely overcome a serious sugar production crisis, found itself deprived of its only source of foreign laborers. In effect, the denunciation of the Franco-British Convention by the English government in 1882 compromised the recruitment of hired laborers of Indian origin. Disconcerted, the planters of La Réunion once again put forward the idea, which had never been abandoned, of an official return of African immigration. The closure of the slave markets of Zanzibar and the abolition of slavery in the Portuguese colonies necessarily required new methods of recruitment. The renewal of African indenture in 1887 was subordinated to the establishment of a Franco-Portuguese accord, and benefited from revised legislation. Ephemeral and of minor importance, African immigration did not fill the void left by the Indians. Competing with the recruitment of other foreign powers, the Réunionnais were unable to enlist sufficient numbers of workers. In contrast with their predecessors in the 1850s, the majority of hired Africans who arrived at the end of the nineteenth century were free Portuguese subjects. Their stay on the island was of short duration and they requested, en masse, their repatriation. The planters thereby ceased, permanently, their recruitment efforts in East Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century and progressively resorted to the use of a local work force.

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