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Title: Victorian and Edwardian Malta (1837‑1910) : change and continuity
Other Titles: Victorian and Edwardian Malta - proceedings of history week 2019
Authors: Buttigieg, Noel
Cassar, George
Keywords: Malta -- History -- 19th century
Malta -- History -- 20th century
Malta -- History -- British occupation, 1800-1964
Malta -- Social life and customs -- History -- 19th century
Malta -- Social life and customs -- History -- 20th century
Malta -- Politics and government -- History -- 19th century
Malta -- Politics and government -- History -- 20th century
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Malta Historical Society
Citation: Buttigieg, N., & Cassar, G. (2022). Victorian and Edwardian Malta (1837‑1910) : change and continuity. In N. Buttigieg & G. Cassar (Eds.), Victorian and Edwardian Malta - proceedings of history week 2019 (pp. 7-23). Malta: Malta Historical Society
Abstract: In 1530, Emperor Charles V donated Malta to the Order of St John as a fiefdom of the Kingdom of Sicily. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Hospitaller’s rule became more autonomous with the fading away of feudal concepts. In 1798, the Knights were abruptly ousted from the Maltese archipelago by Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces. The short French interlude was rife with unrest as the locals rose in protest and blockaded the improvised military-cum-civil administration within the conglomerate of walled towns around Malta’s Grand Harbour. Months into the rebellion, the Maltese insurgents resorted to foreign professional support so that along the two-year ordeal the Maltese could count on the backing of the Portuguese, Neapolitan and British forces. In September 1800, the hostilities ceased as the French forces surrendered. Though the British had come to Malta’s aid as allies of the King of the Two Sicilies, having sent their officers to manage the blockade, they now simply took over the surrender process and made sure of being the ones to receive the French capitulation.1 Malta became a British Protectorate until 1814, and then a Crown Colony, as ratified by the Treaty of Paris.2 Foreign powers, again, defined the fate of Malta as the Treaty of Paris officially recognised Britain’s “geographical” presence in the Mediterranean. The Maltese archipelago thus became the sentinel of British interests in the region and beyond, the same interests that continued to influence the developments that unfolded during the years 1837–1910.
The period under study straddles two significant events in Maltese history – the first was a highly tragic and depressing calamity while the latter may be described as quite euphoric and sportive. In 1837, the cholera epidemic spread like wildfire, causing the death of more than 4,000 inhabitants.3 More than eight decades later, in 1910, the inhabitants were experiencing their first football league championship – the Maltese First Division – won by Floriana in April of that year.
The Crown Colony of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) and her immediate successor King Edward VII (1901–10) reflected the ebb and flow of events as dictated by Malta’s key role as a fortress colony of the British Empire in the Mediterranean with all that this brought with it along the years. The long-term political, economic and social effects of the developments unfolding during this period may well have launched the small island colony of Malta into “modernity”.
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