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.
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 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.
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.
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'.
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.
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
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
in Malta, amongst others in Floriana, where you can find the RAF Monument. In
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
with a collection of military airplanes. Ta' Qali was an airfield during the
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