Malta under British Rule: A period of prosperity and starvation!
The British Rule in Malta started roughly at around 1800. Prior to that, the Maltese people were rebelling against the French and had drove them out of Mdina.
However, the Maltese soon realized that they needed help if they wanted to push the French out of their country for good.
They appealed to the King of Naples for help.
Due to various events that were happening at that time, help came in the form of a British fleet led by Lord Nelson.
The fleet patrolled harbour entrances while the Maltese people tried to block the French from progressing on land. The Maltese resistance wanted to take Valletta from the French, but failed.
This episode in the history of Malta carries great importance to the Maltese, because it was at this time that one of the national heroes, Dun Mikiel Xerri, a leader of the rebellion, was captured by the French and unfortunately, executed.
The fighting lasted for some eighteen months, before the French finally surrendered.
And thus, Malta came under British Rule in 1800. Not officially a British colony yet, during the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 it was decided that Malta had to be given back to the Knights.
However, the Maltese people were not utterly keen on this. During that time, the island was being administered by Sir Alexander Ball, who was an agent of the King of Naples. Sir Ball cleverly lobbied the Maltese to petition the powers to officially hand the Maltese islands to the British.
The Treaty of Paris in 1814 officially recognized the British occupation of Malta.
But it was during the Congress of Vienna, that Malta was legally made a British colony. Sadly, once again the much desired home rule had not materialized and once again Malta was occupied by foreigners, this time under British rule.
What was Malta like under British Rule?
The British immediately set out to introduce legal systems that were in line with England’s systems.
Under British rule, the island of Malta went through a period of prosperity and the Grand Harbour became a flourishing naval base.
When the Great War struck, Malta once again became “the nurse of the Mediterranean” with over 25,000 beds available for the sick and injured.
After the war, Malta was granted her first self-governing constitution!!! After centuries of foreign rule, this tiny island right at the heart of the Mediterranean finally had its own Senate!
The first session opened on the 1st of November 1921. England however, was still in control of foreign policy, immigration, nationality and the Mint.
During the 19th century, the Maltese islands became increasingly important to the British, more so after the opening of the Suez Canal. Malta’s strategic location did not do much for the Maltese though as regards to benefits for them.
In fact, the islands were struck by extreme poverty. This led to riots against the British on the 7th of June 1919. The riots started as a result of a rise in the price of bread. The rebellion led to a somewhat greater autonomy for the Maltese people.
With Mussolini’s dominance in Italy and the outbreak of World War II, Malta once again found herself at the forefront in the battle for the Mediterranean.
The island’s close proximity to Sicily, led to Malta being constantly bombarded by both Italian and German air forces.
The Maltese people resisted the attacks and defended their beloved island so courageously that in 1942, Malta was awarded the George Cross (the only time that the medal was awarded to a whole nation).
Unfortunately, no amount of George Crosses could bring back the thousands of Maltese lives that were lost during the second World War.
Full independence from the British was negotiated and granted on the 21st of September 1964 and on the 13th of December 1974, Malta was declared a Republic.
On the 31st of March 1979, Malta finally saw the withdrawal of all British troops and the Royal Navy from the islands.
It had been an incredibly long journey, but Malta was finally free from any type of foreign intervention and able to control its own destiny!
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