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Title: Hospitallers in early modern Malta : a study of the Order of St. John’s Military Complex, 1530 – 1650
Authors: Howard, Raymond
Keywords: Malta -- History, Military
Knights of Malta -- History
Order of St John -- History
Malta -- Militia -- History
Martial arts -- Europe -- History -- 16th century
Martial arts -- Europe -- History -- 17th century
Issue Date: 2019
Citation: Howard, R. (2019). Hospitallers in early modern Malta : a study of the Order of St. John’s Military Complex, 1530 – 1650 (Master’s dissertation).
Abstract: There exists a prevailing notion among academics, that military history is very much the realm of retired generals, whose tedious focus on campaign narratives and battle strategies does little to live up to the modern intellectual rigours of the academic historian. With such an outlook firmly embedded in the academic world and university campuses, one should feel no surprise to see that military history has, with a few exceptions, become the forte of the popular historian, whose audience is far more willing to accept generalisations and sensationalist interpretations. Ironically, military history’s popularity with the general public and the popular historians who eagerly satisfy this demand, tarnish the reputation of the same subject in the academic world. Such divisiveness between the academic and the historically inclined non–academic readership does not bode well for history in all its forms, whether military, political or social. Yet, warfare is as much of a cultural phenomenon as literature, art, fashion and philosophical thought. By extension military history is not just about campaign narratives and strategy, but equally as much about understanding the participants and their experience of battle, for the warriors’ behaviour on the battlefield was conditioned by their cultural values and ideology, as much as the societal norms from which the accepted methods of combat emerged. It is this realisation which endeared me to the discipline, although a background rich in years of martial art practice, both Japanese and European, as well as growing up on a Mediterranean island rich with the Hospitaller Knight’s military heritage, furthered by the imagination of youth and influence of fantastical movies and literature concerning battlefield heroics, often occurring in a vaguely medieval setting, certainly ploughed the proverbial field eagerly awaiting for the seed to germinate. This dissertation is equally the result of all these influences as much as it is the natural extension of my previous dissertation regarding the Military Revolution and its influences on early modern Hospitaller Malta. While researching the latter in 2017, I came to realise how lacking Hospitaller military historiography was in presenting a comprehensive overview of the Order’s military establishment. This is not to say that no studies on the matter have been produced, quite the contrary in fact, yet these studies although technical and well researched tend to treat the various components of the Hospitaller military in isolation, both from the wider international framework, and from the other facets of Order’s war machine. Furthermore, the majority of these studies focus on the institutional capacity of the Order rather than focusing on the warrior himself. This dissertation seeks to fulfil this lacuna in Hospitaller military historiography by the inclusion of human oriented themes within a wider discussion of the Order’s military complex. It should be clear that discussions of human aspects do not infer an exercise in microhistory, where diaries and letters feature as the primary source material from which a personal and individual outlook on a soldiers’ life, in peace and wartime, can be extrapolated. Such an exercise, while intellectually stimulating, is difficult to undertake with respects to the Hospitallers as the source material is limited. Rather, human aspects here are defined as the individual martial skills, and the material culture which the Hospitallers employed in warfare. The methodology employed in analysing the Order’s military complex will thus vacillate between a bird’s eye view when covering the Order’s military institutional history, to a worm’s eye view for those case studies which bring the human aspects, that is, martial training and material artefacts owned by the individual knights and militiamen, to the fore. Chapter 1 sets the stage by clearly presenting the aims of this study and engaging with the historiography of military history, and providing a detailed review of the sources consulted for this work. Chapter 2 establishes the wider context to the study, focusing on Mediterranean geo–politics and the changing nature of warfare, as well as the Hospitaller experience of island life. Chapter 3 tackles the origins of the Maltese militia, its development under the Order’s rule, and a comparison between the Maltese and European militia forces. Chapter 4 continues the same theme focusing particularly on the first half of the 17th century and presents some newly discovered information of great significance. Chapter 5 turns towards the knight himself and addresses the issue of martial training in the Hospitaller convent, with Chapter 6 investigating the Order’s military equipment from a morphological and metallurgical perspective. The concluding chapter synthesises the key observations uncovered in the preceding chapters.
Description: M.A.HISTORY
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2019
Dissertations - FacArtHis - 2019

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