In 1500, the Maore or Mawuti (contraction of the Arabic جزيرة الموت Jazīrat al-Mawt – meaning island of death and corrupted to Mayotte in French) sultanate was established on the island. In 1503, Mayotte was observed by Portuguese explorers, but not colonized.
In 1832, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Iboina on Madagascar; in 1833, it was conquered by the neighbouring sultanate of Mwali (Mohéli island in French). On 19 November 1835, Mayotte was again conquered by the Ndzuwani Sultanate (Anjouan sultanate in French); a governor was installed with the unusual Islamic style of Qadi (from the Arabic قاض which means judge). However, in 1836 it regained its independence under a last local Sultan.
Mayotte was purchased by France in 1841. It was the only island in the archipelago that voted in referendums in 1974 and 1976 to retain its link with France and forgo independence (with 63.8% and 99.4% of votes respectively). The Comoros continue to claim the island. A draft 1976 United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing Comorian sovereignty over Mayotte, supported by 11 of the 15 members of the Council, was vetoed by France. It was the last time, as of 2011, that France cast a lone veto in the Council. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a series of resolutions on the issues, under the title "Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte" up to 1995. Since 1995, the subject of Mayotte has not been discussed by the General Assembly.
Mayotte became an overseas department of France in March 2011 in consequence of a 29 March 2009 referendum. The outcome was a 95.5 per cent vote in favour of changing the island's status from a French "overseas community" to become France's 101st département. Its non-official traditional Islamic law, applied in some aspects of the day-to-day life, will be gradually abolished and replaced by the uniform French civil code. Additionally, French social welfare and taxes apply in Mayotte, though some of each will be brought in gradually. Comoros continues to claim the island, while criticising the French military base there.
The politics of Mayotte takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic French local government, whereby the President of the Departmental Council is the head of the local assembly, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the French government.
Mayotte also sends one deputy to the French National Assembly and two senators to the French Senate.
Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France officially named Département de Mayotte. Unlike the other overseas regions and departments of France, Mayotte possesses a single local assembly, officially called the "departmental council" (conseil départemental), which acts both as a regional and departmental council.
The situation of Mayotte proved to be awkward for France: while the local population very largely did not want to be independent from France and join the Comoros, some international criticism from post-colonial leftist regimes was heard about Mayotte's ongoing ties to France. Furthermore, the peculiar local administration of Mayotte, largely ruled by customary Muslim law, would be difficult to integrate into the legal structures of France, not to mention the costs of bringing the standards of living to levels close to those of Metropolitan France. For these reasons, the laws passed by the national parliament had to state specifically that they applied to Mayotte for them to be applicable on Mayotte.
The status of Mayotte was changed in 2001 towards one very close to the status of the Departments of France, with the particular designation of departmental collectivity. This change was approved by 73% of voters in a referendum. After the constitutional reform of 2003 it became an overseas collectivity while retaining the title "departmental collectivity" of Mayotte.
Mayotte became an overseas department of France (département d'outre-mer, DOM) on 31 March 2011 following the result of the March 2009 Mahoran status referendum, which was overwhelmingly approved by around 95% of voters. Becoming an overseas department will mean it will adopt the same legal and social system as used in the rest of France. This will require abandoning some customary laws, adopting the standard French civil code, and reforming the judiciary, educational, social and fiscal systems, and will take place over a period of about 20 years.
Despite its domestic constitutional evolution from the status of an overseas collectivity to that of an overseas department, effectively becoming a full constituent territory within the French Republic, with regards to the European Union, Mayotte remained an 'Overseas country and territory' (OCT) in association with the Union (as per Article 355(2) TFEU) and not a constituent territory of the European Union in the same way as the other four overseas departments. However following a directive of the European Council in December 2013, Mayotte became an outermost region of the European Union on 1 January 2014. This successful agreement between the 27 member states follows a petition made by the French government for Mayotte to become an integral territory of the European Union nonetheless benefiting from the derogation clause applicable in existing Outermost regions, namely Article 349 TFEU, as favoured in a June 2012 European Commission opinion on Mayotte's European constitutional status.
Mayotte is divided into 17 communes. There are also 13 cantons (not shown here). There are no arrondissements.