Malta: History


Figure 1.--Malta was the cornerstone of the British campaign in the Western Desert. British possession of Malta and the invaluable naval and air bases there played a major role in interdicting Italian and Germany supply convoys to Libya. The result was one of the most sustained Luftwaffe bombing attacks of World War II and it was concentrated on strategic points on a very small island. An invasion plan was delayed because of the losses the Germans experienced on Crete. Many hisdtorians thus call Malta the right usland, the Island Hitler should have invaded. This wire service photo bwas dated August 8, 1942. The caption read,"Carrying on: With the courage of the island, this young resident of Malta makes himself as comfortable as posdible as hec reclines in a steamer chsirt besides the ruins of his home. Malta, British outpostin the Mediterranean, has been considered the most heavily bombed area in the world, and the whole islanf has been decorated by King George for the courage of inhabitants.

Malta is a pinpoint in the Meditrarranean. Its location has, however, rendred it a pinpoint of great stategic importance, being placed at the crossroads between the eastern and westerm Mediterranean as well as Europe and Asia. Thus Malta has been a valuable strategic base since people began to conduct maritime commerce in the wider Mediterranean. A little-known civilization built megalithic temples (3rd millennium BC). The Phoenicians founded a colony on Malta. They were followed by nearby Carthaginians and during the Punic Wars, the Romans. St Paul was shipwrecked off Malta (60 AD). This was the beginning of Chritiamity on the island. Malta after the fall of Rome came under the control of the Byzantines who were a naval power. The Arab outburst from Arabia swept over North Africa (8th century). The Governor of Muslim Sicily seized Malta (870). The Normans as part of the Crusades reconquered Sicily and Malta became Christian once again (1090). Norman rule resulted in the expansion of trade and commerce as well as a flowering of the arts and sciences as Malta was reoriented toward Europe, especially Sicily (12th century). The end of the Hautville dynasty (1194), resulted in considerable confusion and struggles over vthe control of Malta. There were intervals of prosperity and distreassing chaos. Malta became caught up in the wider Mediterranean and religious struggles. The dynasties struggling to control Malta included: Hohenstaufers (especially Frederick II), the Angevins, the Aragonnese, the Venetians, the Genoese, the Papacy, and the kings of France. There was also the Arabs and Ottomans who added a religious dimension to the various struggles. Malta, together with Sicily, became part of the Hapsburg empire (16th century). of Charles V granted Malta to the Knights of St John (1530). Malta became a bulwark against the Ottomans, restricting the Ottoman Navy to bthe eastern Mediterranean. The Knights held out against an overwealming Ottoman force beseiging the Island (1565). Napoleon briefly held Malta (1797-99). A British-backed rebellion forced him to withdraw and Malta became a key British redoubt in the Mediterranean which combined with Gibraltar enabled the British to exert a powerful naval presence in the Mediterraneam. It was visited by the American squadron batteling the Barbary pirates. The building of the Suez Canal (1869) made Malta even more important. One of the most heroic chapters in Malta's history was defense of the island aganist the onslaught of the Luftwaffe and Italian Air Force in World War II (1940-42). Malta became the most heavily bombed place on earth. The entire Island was awarded the George Cross. The Maltese voted in a referendum for full integration with Britain (1956), an action supported by the Maltese Labor Party (MLP) under Dom Mintoff. Talks on integration, however, failed. Attitudes in Malta shifted as the major political parties began to support independence. Britain granted independence (1964). Dr Borg Olivier of the conservative Nationalist Party became Malta's Prime Minister. Mintoff anf the MLP won the next election (1971). The Maltese political scene gradually shifted to neutrality in the Cold War. Malta signed treaties with Libya, Italy and the Soviet Union.

Geography

Malta is a pinpoint in the Meditrarranean. Its location has, however, rendred it a pinpoint of great stategic importance, being placed at the crossroads between the eastern and westerm Mediterranean as well as Europe and Asia. Thus Malta has been a valuable strategic base since people began to conduct maritime commerce in the wider Mediterranean.

Pre-history

Malta was beyond the reach of early the homonids that populated the world through land routes. Only after the onset of civikization and seafaring technology did humans reach Malta (5th millenium BC). This is known as the Ghar Dalam phase. A little-known civilization built megalithic temples (3rd millennium BC). People using bronze tools appeared (about 2000 BC).

Ancient Era

The Phoenicians founded a colony on Malta (about 800 BC). They controlled the island for more than four centuries. Some Greek influence was noted (700 BC). The nearby Carthaginians, a Phoenician people, seized control (480 BC). Malta became a prize in the Punic Wars (264-146 BC). The Romsns seized the island (218 BC). St. Paul was shipwrecked off Malta (60 AD). This was the beginning of Chritiamity on the island. The Emperor Hadrian (117-38 AD) made Maulta municipium. Malta did not have the importance under Roman rule that it would have in more modern history because the Romans after defeating Cathage controlled the Mediterranean and there was no threat to Roman naval dominznce, except from pirates. Malta after the fall of Rome came under the control of the Eastern Empire which evolved into the Byzantine Empire who were an important naval power. With the fall of Rome, Mslta became one of the most conquered pieces of realeatate in Europe.

The Byzantine Era (395-870)

The Byzantines with brief interuptions controlled the island for about five centuries. The Eastern Empire seized control (395 AD). The Vandals who estblished a North Sfrican kingdom seized the island (454). The Ostergoths who occupied Italy and Sicly seized the island (464). A rejuvenste Byzantine Empire defeated the Vandals and recooupied Catrthage (533). They seized Malta at this time. Soon after the Byzantines moved north to seize Sicly nd eventually Italy itself.

The Arab Era (870-1090)

The Arab outburst from Arabia swept over North Africa (8th century). The Governor of Muslim Sicily seized Malta (870).

Medieval Era

The Normans as part of the Crusades reconquered Sicily and Malta became Christian once again (1090). Norman rule resulted in the expansion of trade and commerce as well as a flowering of the arts and sciences as Malta was reoriented toward Europe, especially Sicily (12th century). The end of the Hautville dynasty (1194), resulted in considerable confusion and struggles over vthe control of Malta. There were intervals of prosperity and distreassing chaos. Malta became caught up in the wider Mediterranean and religious struggles. The dynasties struggling to control Malta included: Hohenstaufers (especially Frederick II), the Angevins, the Aragonnese, the Venetians, the Genoese, the Papacy, and the kings of France. There was also the Arabs and Ottomans who added a religious dimension to the various struggles. Malta, together with Sicily, became part of the Hapsburg empire (16th century). of Charles V granted Malta to the Knights of St John (1530).

Christian-Ottoman Struggle

Malta became a bulwark against the Ottomans, restricting the Ottoman Navy to bthe eastern Mediterranean. The Knights held out against an overwealming Ottoman force beseiging the Island (1565).

Napoleonic Wars

Napoleon briefly held Malta (1797-99). A British-backed rebellion forced him to withdraw and Malta became a key British redoubt in the Mediterranean which combined with Gibraltar enabled the British to exert a powerful naval presence in the Mediterraneam.

British Control

It was visited by the American squadron batteling the Barbary pirates. The building of the Suez Canal (1869) made Malta even more important.

World War II

Malta was the cornerstone of the British campaign in the Western Desert. British possession of Malta and the invaluable naval and air bases there played a major role in interdicting Italian and Germany supply convoys to Libya. And it was supply shortages that played a key role in defeating Rommel and the Afrika Korps. Malta became the most bombed place on earth. German and Italian air forced relentlessly pounded the island. The island somehow managed to with tand the fiercest air assault of the War. The Italians began bombing Malta in 1940. The Luftwaffe joined in the campaign (January 1941) even before Rommel arrived in North Africa. Malta by March 1942 was enduring an average of 10 air raid alerts daily and there had been 117 straight days of bombing. The bombing was devestating. It also prevented supplies, food, and fuel from reaching the island. At one point Malta was near to capitulation, left virtual no fuel, food, or fighters. It was a convoy with an American carrier that finally succeeded in getting needed supplies through. Civilians suffered teribly. They had to move underground. Newsreels in Britain and America showed school children moving rapidly into undergrond bunkers when the air raids sireens sounded. The population was near starvation at one point. The Axis did not, however, launch a parachute assault on the island. They had the capability as shown in Crete. Senior Axis commanders advised just sych an action. After the German terrible losses suffed by the German parachute units on Crete, however, Hitler demured, After the War, historians have taken to summrizing the assul on Cretr as "the wrong island". The Axis seige was not fully lifted until July 1943 after the Axis surrender in Tunis and the invasion of Sicily. [Holland] Operaions from Malta also played an important role in interducting Axis supply lines to Tunis, fforcing the surrender there. Some orphaned children were sent to Australia.

Independence

The Maltese voted in a referendum for full integration with Britain (1956), an action supported by the Maltese Labor Party (MLP) under Dom Mintoff. Talks on integration, however, failed. The British closed their military base (1979). was closed Attitudes in Malta shifted as the major political parties began to support independence. and by 1961 independence was sought by Both the major political parties by the early 60s had shifted toward indepependenmce. Britain granted independence (1964). Dr Borg Olivier of the conservative Nationalist Party became Malta's Prime Minister. Mintoff and the MLP won the next election (1971). The Maltese political scene under the MLP shifted to neutrality in the Cold War. Malta signed treaties with Libya, Italy, and the Soviet Union. The MLP dominsted Maltese politics for 16 years. Nearaly two decades of Socialist policies has the same stultifying impact on the economy thst they had in other countries. The center-right Nationalist party, led by Dr Edward Fenech Adami, won election (May 1987). They pursued a policy of liberalizing and deregulating the statist economic structure established by the MLP. Malta is a very small misland with a tiny economy. The islands relationship with the EU surfaced, but the Maltese were divided (mid-1990s).








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Created: 3:04 AM 9/17/2011
Last updated: 3:04 AM 9/17/2011