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|Hospitaller Malta’s communication system with the Mediterranean world in the early seventeenth century
|Knights of Malta -- History -- 17th century
Mediterranean Region -- History -- 17th century
Malta -- Foreign relations -- Mediterranean Region
Order of St John -- History -- 17th century
|The seminal idea for this project about Hospitaller Malta’s communication system goes back to the immediate months following the submission of my masters dissertation at the University of Malta way back in December 1996. In a half-hearted attempt to rekindle the fire for academic research, I was occasionally consulting documentary volumes of the Order of St John’s outgoing correspondence, trying to further my knowledge on the Knights’ affairs in Genoa, the core theme of my masters. In the process, patterns of systematic contacts and news transmission between early modern Malta and the Mediterranean world started emerging. Hence the concept to try and recreate Malta’s communication system with abroad started taking shape. The ambition from the onset was to adopt a holistic approach. The analysis of Malta’s overseas communications had to develop in unison with that of the prime reasons why such contacts had to be fostered in the first place by the governing elite of the island. In consequence, the whole study rests on the Order’s provisioning, fund transfer, and intelligence-collection policies, the three overarching activities necessary for Malta’s survival in an early modern Mediterranean conditioned by the Habsburg-Ottoman rivalry. Originally the intention was to study this communication system throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the course of my research advised otherwise, as I risked being overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of such an ill-conceived task. Consequently, I progressively narrowed the temporal framework of the study, ultimately deciding to concentrate primarily on the first two decades of the seventeenth century. This period coincides with the magistracy of Alof de Wignacourt, an age of significant infrastructural changes in the history of our island, and one which still deserves more attention than it has been hitherto afforded. The ultimate aim of the study is to show how the coordinated management of the Order’s institutional activities involving communications between Malta and foreign territories was an inherent part of the island’s centenary gestation period conducive to statehood. As will be evinced by any trained eye in historical studies which affords even a cursory glance at this dissertation, considerable time and energy has been dedicated to the perusal of the Order of St John’s Italian outgoing correspondence. Ideally, any historical analysis of a certain breadth should be based on the consultation of the largest possible number of different primary sources from as many different archives as possible. However, logistics and the necessity to trace early modern Malta’s foreign contact-patterns, apart from the names of Hospitaller agents and correspondents stationed outside the island, conspired in unison to persuade me to dedicate a huge amount of time to the reading of these letters. This was done in the knowledge that no other kind of Hospitaller documentation provides the type of systematic inference I was looking for, without which this study would not have been possible. The benefits and inevitable lacunae inherent in this choice are evident in the tables listing the Order of St John’s agents and correspondents throughout Wignacourt’s twenty-year tenure, which are inevitably incomplete. Extensive research in the Notarial Archives of Valletta or the exhaustive consultation of the Order’s land registers and prioral visits, for example, could help to fill some gaps in these data collections, but this would take more than a lifetime of research, a luxury which, alas, I am denied. It is hoped, however, that this study can constitute a solid platform for further analysis of Hospitaller Malta’s communication system with the Mediterranean world, many chapters of which still have to be written.
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|Dissertations - FacArtHis - 2016
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