english                nederlands

the french occupation

On the 11th of June 1798 Napoleon occupied the Maltese islands. Already within a couple of days most Knights had left Malta, leaving most of their belongings behind. All possessions of the Knight's Order were confiscated by the French.

The capitulation of the Knights in 1798, as depicted on a Maltacom telecard Napoleon's troops come ashore

Notwithstanding the French promises not to interfere with the church, convents were closed and church treasures were seized. The opposition against the French grew and already on the 2nd of September the first uprising took place. The immediate cause was an auction of possessions of the Carmelite Convent in Mdina. The French withdrew in Valletta and lost their control over the Maltese countryside. The Maltese rebels could not oust the French on their own and asked the British for support.

The Carmelite Church in Mdina, where the revolt against the French started Statue of Dun Mikiel Xerri, one of the leaders of the uprising against the French

the british blockade

The first British squadron reached Malta in October 1798. Lord Nelson, the British admiral, decided to force the French to surrender by means of a total blockade. In the meantime the Maltese resistance attempted to take Valletta, but they didn't succeed. One of the leaders of the rebellion, Dun Mikiel Xerri, was captured by the French and executed. The blockade lasted till the 5th of September 1800, when the weakened French garrison surrendered.

a british colony

Initially the British didn't know what to do with Malta. At the Treaty of Amiens (1802) it was decided that Malta was to be restored to the Knights, but the Maltese were not very keen on that. They requested the British to stay in Malta, and so it happened, but the much desired home rule did not come into effect. Malta was to be ruled as a British crown colony.
In the course of the 19th century Malta became more and more important to the British. Especially after the opening of the Suez Canal, Malta appeared to be a perfect stronghold, both for the British fleet, and the British trade. The Maltese economy depended heavily on the British navy, but most Maltese didn't take much benefit from it. There was much poverty, especially amongst the rural population. On the 7th of June 1919 riots against the British took place because of a rise in bread prices.

Chadwick Lakes, a series of small dams constructed by the British Drydock no. 1, constructed in 1848 in Dockyard Creek

political developments

Since 1849 there was a Council of Government with a number of Maltese representatives, but they were in the minority. The new constitution of 1887 gave the elected members of the Council a majority, but in 1903 this was reverted. The influence of the Maltese on politics remained trifling, until the establishment of the Maltese parliament in 1921. The thirties were characterized by a very instable political situation, in which the constitution was suspended several times.

Royal Opera House in Valletta, designed by Edward Middleton Barry in 1860 Royal Opera House in ruins after a German bomb attack in 1942

the second world war

During the Second World War Malta, being a British base, was heavily targeted by both the Italians and the Germans. Especially Valletta and the Three Cities suffered a lot. The war brought the British and the Maltese closer to each other. On the 15th of April 1942 King George VI granted the George Cross to the Maltese population, 'for gallantry'.

Governor Lord Gort presents the George Cross to Chief Justice Sir George Borg Rally for independence


After World War II in 1947, self government was introduced, but in the beginning of the sixties it became clear that the two largest political parties opted for independence. That was achieved in 1964. Malta remained in the Commonwealth and recognized the British Queen as head of state. That changed in 1974, when Malta became a republic with its own president. In 1979 the last British troops left the island.
The present Maltese government of Dr. Edward Fenech Adami, leader of the Nationalist Party, wants to join the European Union. The Labour opposition of Dr. Alfred Sant is against.

The Siege Bell Monument in Valletta British influence almost everywhere - telephone booth in Gharb on Gozo

 hints for visitors

The Victoria Lines is a defence wall, built by the British at the end of the 19th century. You can make a nice walk along large parts of the wall, that runs from Fomm ir-Riħ to Madliena. On your way you'll see several forts. Fort Mosta can be visited on Monday mornings.

Many forts around Valletta, constructed by the Knights, bear traces of the British presence as well, like Fort St. Elmo, Fort St. Angelo, Fort Tigné and Fort Ricasoli. In Fort Rinella is the largest gun ever built, weighing 100 tons and dating back to 1884. There are frequent re-enactments that make the 19th century fort come alive. You can also visit Rinella Movie Park.

There are several war monuments in Malta, amongst others in Floriana, where you can find the RAF Monument. In Valletta is the Siege Bell Monument, inaugurated in 1992 by Queen Elisabeth.

In Valletta there are two war museums: the War Museum in Fort St. Elmo and the Lascaris War Rooms in the fortifications of Valletta. Also in Valletta there is an audio-visual show about WW II, the Wartime Experience.

In Ta' Qali, close to the Crafts Village, is the Aviation Museum with a collection of military airplanes. Ta' Qali was an airfield during the British period.

One of the churches that was hit in the Second World War is Mosta Dome, one of the largest domes in Europe and built in the 19th century. The German bomb that pierced the dome did not explode, which is regarded as a miracle. A replica of the bomb can still be seen in the sacristy of the church

back home next

Home - Introduction - Prehistory - Romans - Middle Ages - Knights - British - Pictures - Quiz