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Title: 'History and Life from Below' : a study of the notarial acts of Guiseppe De Guevara in 1544 Malta
Authors: Zahra, Andre
Keywords: Knights of Malta -- Malta -- History -- 16th century
Order of St John -- Malta -- History -- 16th century
Notaries -- Malta -- History -- 16th century
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: The main objectives of this dissertation are to bring to light aspects of social life in mid-sixteenth century Malta during the initial years of the Order of St. John’s stay, with focus on the year 1544. As a result, the main aspects to be taken into account are the social connections which the common man had with the early Hospitallers. Furthermore, a study of the concepts of material life vis-à-vis landownership and the institution of the church can be found in the notarial acts. My line of investigation is taken from the notarial deeds of Giuseppe De Guevara’s second volume pertaining to the year 1544. Some references are also made to Juliano Muscat’s work in the years 1569-70, since these were the acts which were originally to be analysed. As a result, the first chapter explains the pros and cons of notarial research. Despite the difficulties of handwriting and translations, theses deeds are a fountain of knowledge as yet largely untapped. Furthermore, one shall strive to provide a short introduction to the notary himself and his place in the order of things by venturing into his life and immediate surroundings. Notaries were seen as the bridge between the uneducated laity and the educated class of the clergy. Being quite learned, notaries had a very reputable profession which was second to the clergy in terms of social importance. Like many others Giuseppe De Guevara was privy to many aspects of his clients’ private lives; if his profession was not one of trust, certainly people would not go to him for their service. Furthermore, apart from drawing up notarial deeds, Giuseppe De Guevara and most other notaries for that matter held other economic activities. These activities generally dealt with the trading of material goods and commodities available at the time. The second chapter gives an explanation of the role that Malta played in the context of regional Mediterranean history. This is because Malta’s history – or any other case study for that matter – cannot be taken into isolation, since as F. Braudel surmises in his concluding chapter of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II it is context which is all. The social, economical and political background is that factor in history which determines the actions of man and not vice-versa, despite the fact that some of them appear to influence history. However, the idea of a powerful ‘big man’ no longer holds importance amongst historians. Thirdly, I shall provide some case studies from the acts in order to understand the way people lived. This is a broad and general chapter which describes most of the people’s lives and actions, while making reference to more knowledgeable authors on the subject to further emphasise such points. It is important to explain these case-studies in the Maltese-Hospitaller context, in relation to the ideas of space, time and death in early Hospitaller Malta as expounded by Dr. Emanuel Buttiġieġ in his dissertation on Juliano Muscat. How do the ideas of space and time relate to the idea of landownership and inheritance which is salient in many of the notarial deeds? Furthermore, how does the church and by extension religion fit into this picture? These played a major role in the lives of Late Medieval and Early Hospitaller Malta. Furthermore, since Dr. Buttiġieġ’s work served as a great inspiration to mine, an analysis of gender issues which existed in this period will be taken into account, especially with regards to property being owned by women as opposed to the idea that women were not landowners or were simply seen as objects. The final chapter comprises of an understanding of the difference which existed between the worlds of the rich and the poor. Hence, it is important to see the diverse issues which brought about the context for the construction of different classes of people. The best way to understand such an issue is by taking a case study from the notarial deeds themselves. This is important for the understanding of social life from the point-of-view of the common man which is rarely seen in many history books. All these examples will be linked with the bigger picture of early Hospitaller Malta in order to put everything into context.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HISTORY
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2012
Dissertations - FacArtHis - 2012

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