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Title: The impact of technology on economic, political and social spheres: the transition from sail to steam in 19th century Malta
Authors: Gatt, Suzanne
Keywords: Malta -- History -- 19th century
Malta -- History -- British occupation, 1800-1964
Steam-engines -- Economic aspects
Malta -- Economic conditions -- 19th century
Malta -- Commerce -- 19th century
Sailing ships -- History -- 19th century
Steam-navigation -- Malta -- History -- 19th century
Suez Canal (Egypt) -- History -- 19th century
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: University of Malta. Junior College
Citation: Gatt, S. (2018). The impact of technology on economic, political and social spheres: the transition from sail to steam in 19th century Malta. Junior College multi-disciplinary conference : research, practice and collaboration : Breaking Barriers : annual conference 2018, Malta. 353-362
Abstract: Nowadays, we are aware that technology determines and affects our daily lives. We also acknowledge its impact on national political, economic and social development as well as its central role in contemporary globalisation. However, back in time when technology was still affirming its prominence, its impact on society was not yet so discernible. In the study of Maltese history it has often been relegated to secondary importance. One example is the research carried out on the advent and dissipation of the 19th century economic boom in the Maltese Islands. Malta went through a golden age of commerce, followed by a terrible economic slump. Whilst many hailed the entrepreneurial genius of the Maltese, the dominance of British trade and the opening of the Suez Canal, little or no credit was attributed to the new technology of steam propulsion. Adapting to a transition from sail to steam, Malta became a primary coaling station, basing its economy on bunkering and servicing of steam ships. The working population flocked to the harbours in search of making a fortune. The consequent slump, a few decades later, was often explained as a natural recession, with little reference to the fact that it was also the result of the sharp decline in visiting steam-ships, due to further advances in steam technology and the way the Maltese had dealt with this new technological breakthrough. My research delves into this transition from sail to steam: dealing first with Britain’s supremacy in the technological evolution of steam and then with the impact of steam shipping in Malta. Breaking barriers in academia proved edifying. British dominance at the time, combined with the response of Maltese commerce to the advent of the steam ship, provides a context of opposing interests which shaped the history of Malta for half a century and contributed to its future political, social and economic development. This study primarily exposes the centrality of steam technology in the unfolding of 19th century Maltese history.
Appears in Collections:Breaking Barriers : Proceedings
Scholarly Works - JCSOK
SymMel, 2019, Volume 15

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