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Title: From generals to generals : aborted insurrection, painful resurrection
Other Titles: Malta's quest for independence : reflections on the course of Maltese history
Authors: Frendo, Henry
Keywords: Malta -- History -- 1964-
Church and state -- Malta
Secularization -- Malta
Issue Date: 1989
Publisher: Valletta Publishing & Promotion Co. Ltd.
Citation: Frendo, H. (1989). From generals to generals : aborted insurrection, painful resurrection. In H. Frendo (Ed.), Malta's quest for independence : reflections on the course of Maltese history (pp. 39-71). VaIletta: Valletta Publishing.
Abstract: The sense of belonging to a religio-centric community has cradled patriotism and nationhood in modem times. The church was not only imperium in imperio in a wide sense; it was also to some extent a manifestation of the individual, of the particular, of the geographical environment. This cradling of patriotism by the institutional church was felt even in the Near East where Islam being a theocratic blueprint allowed less scope for it, yet scholars such as Rourani have argued that it is out of the religiousumma that the sense of a secular nationhood emerged. In situations where the ecclesia and imperium are likely to be at odds, distinctions become easier and more formative. We have observed how it is wrong to conceive of the Rising of the Priests as an exclusively ecclesiastical occurrence. We emphasised the patriotic and political quality of the discourse that was being used, or indeed of the actions that were taken or contemplated from the accession of La Valette (indeed from the very arrival of the Order, which the Maltese nobility had reason to resent and to oppose), right down to the last days of the Order when Rompesch gave in the towel before entering the ring. The selection of references to 'il Popolo Maltese', to 'i Maltesi', and 'povera Malta' bring home to us how already in the early seventeenth century we had an embryonic nationalism. It was not the Jacobins who invented Mikiel Anton Vassalli's genius either for Malta as 'nazione' or for Maltese speakers as 'veri nazionali', although Vassalli's standpoint marks a note-worthy evolution in the sketching of nationality rights and self-image. Vassalli's 'patrie' was, initially at least, the French one; but as he traced his own origins and his own inner language, as it were, he found in Malteseness a virginity that badly needed awakening and testing. His patriotism thus begins to take on a Maltese tinge. The influence of an idealistic abstraction - the revolutionary vision - is never far away. In the opening paragraph to his Lexicon Melitense-Latino-Italum, published in Rome in 1796, he deliberately calls his introductory address "ALLA NAZIONE MALTESE'. The first word is a rallying cry reverberating from the squares of Paris rather than of Zebbug: "CONCITTADINI'. And, all too typically in our history, everything is in Italian - not, of course, in Maltese!
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