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Afterword The following is a brief outline of Maltese history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Because, for several reasons, the fall of the Order of the Knights of Saint John provided a logical point at which to conclude, the past two hundred years of Maltese maritime history are ancillary to the study of the topic. Not until the fall of the Order did the archipelago first come under the absolute control of an imperial nation state. France ruled Malta for only a brief period until Britain assumed power in 1800, continuing its occupation throughout the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century. During this time, Malta entered the modern age. Unlike the preceding millennia, during this period Malta actually attained significant strategic and commercial importance as the principal central Mediterranean base of the British Empire and navy. This is also the first time that the Maltese figure largely in the history of the islands and reveal traits of a national character. Perhaps this character had existed for centuries leading up to the British occupation, but the history of the island’s indigenous peoples remained largely unwritten until the nineteenth century. Under British rule, the institutions necessary for self-government developed and were nurtured, culminating in the independence of Malta in 1974. The events of the period following the collapse of the Order of the Knights of Saint John in Malta did not bring freedom to the Maltese people. The French instituted a series of reforms according to their revolutionary principles, abolishing slavery and the nobility and establishing a newspaper. But the French troops also took possession of the Knights’ belongings and properties in Malta and introduced new taxes, creating an extra burden for the Maltese population . The defeat of Napoleon at Aboukir Bay, coupled with the increased looting practiced by the occupying French troops (which extended to the churches of Malta), fomented a rebellion in collusion with the British military. After a drawn-out siege that lasted for nearly two years, the French were defeated and the British flag was raised over Valletta on September 5, 1800. The first British governor of Malta arrived in 1813. English rule was characterized by a harsh administration from the outset, but ultimately it did not significantly change the major aspects of daily life. The Maltese were still excluded from the decision-making mechanisms of government, while the British garrison increased in number. The establishment of the first British admiralty dry dock in 1848 and the subsequent growth of the Grand Harbor as a major base for the Royal Navy were the most important events of the nineteenth 182 Afterword century. However, the most significant development to increase the military and strategic importance of Malta for the British government was the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, placing the archipelago on the route to India. After this date, Malta became the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet, and the islands were largely developed by the occupants, with the addition of new defensive works, towers, military hospitals, and improvements to the harbors and dockyard. The Maltese population found employment once again in the service sector in the establishments created by the British to support their naval presence. The population of the island increased to two hundred thousand, causing the migration and dispersion of Malta’s excess population to other Mediterranean countries. Those who remained in Malta were finally represented in the administration of the islands in 1835, albeit indirectly, with the establishment of the seven-man council that had three assigned Maltese members. The council’s function was to advise the governor, who was by no means obliged to heed its advice. A second dry dock was built in French Creek in 1871. The Royal Navy expanded the Order’s old shipyard and further developed facilities in Dockyard Creek, providing most of the employment opportunities for the growing population of the archipelago. Complete dependency on the British presence made it difficult for the indigenous population to demand more local representation in the government. However, in 1887 the Maltese were granted the right to be represented in a council of twenty that had the majority of its members elected, as opposed to assigned. Yet even this council was allowed only to make minor decisions about local issues, and the full power of government was reserved for the crown and its representative in Malta: the governor. Disagreements regarding whether English or Italian was to be the foreign language taught in Maltese schools brought an end...


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