The first Portuguese explorers found no indigenous people living on the island in 1507. The island of Mauritius was the only home of the Dodo bird. The bird became extinct fewer than eighty years after its discovery. The Dutch settled on the island in 1598 and abandoned it in 1710, Mauritius became a French colony in 1715 and was renamed Isle de France. The British took control of Mauritius in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars. The country became an independent state as a Commonwealth realm on 12 March 1968 and a republic within the Commonwealth on 12 March 1992.
The Royal Navy had been planning an operation against Île de France since the capture of the Dutch East Indies in 1806, but was forced to act earlier than expected following the despatch from France of a powerful frigate squadron under Commodore Jacques Hamelin in late 1808. This force was able to capture a number of East Indiamen and disrupt trade routes across the Indian Ocean by raiding the convoys in which the merchant ships travelled. Forced to confront this enemy, Admiral Albemarle Bertie at the Cape of Good Hope ordered Commodore Josias Rowley to blockade the French islands and prevent their use as raiding bases.
La Bourdonnais was born on 11 February 1699 in Saint-Malo, Brittany. He went to sea when a boy, and in 1718 entered the service of the French East India Company as a lieutenant. In 1724 he was promoted captain, and displayed such bravery in the capture of Mahé off the Malabar Coast that the name of the town was added to his own. For two years he was in the service of the PortugueseViceroy of Goa, but in 1735 he returned to French service as governor of the Île de France (Mauritius) and the Île de Bourbon (Réunion). His first five years' administration of the islands was vigorous and successful. A visit to France in 1740 was interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain, and La Bourdonnais was put at the head of a fleet in Indian waters.