September 2014 Event: Malta between the 15th and 18th centuries; an overview from a historical and social perspective (Part 1)

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Presentation By George Portelli

In his engaging, interactive style, George introduced the
topic by highlighting particular historical milestones prior
to 1436, such as the sacking of the Maltese Islands by
the Arabs in A.D 870, which was followed by a period of
total depopulation; the liberation of Malta by Count
Roger in 1091, and again by his son Roger II in 1127. 



Roger II established a Latin Christian administration, as
well as the role of Malta as a penal colony for European
undesirables, such as in 1224 when the entire
population of the City of Celano in the Abruzzi was
banished to the Maltese Islands.

This was followed by an outline of progressive and at
times regressive conurbation of the Maltese Islands,
from a simple ecclesiastical organization dividing Malta
into two parishes, Mdina and Birgu, in 1436, to 38
separate hamlets and villages by 1798. Due to unsettled
times, during the 14th and 15th centuries a number of
villages and hamlets were abandoned, whilst others
such as Qormi, Birkirkara, Zebbug and Zejtun
flourished. Gozo had scattered settlements and
population but after the Turkish raid of 1551 they were
abandoned and settlement did not resume till much later
in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. During the Middle
Ages, the fear of Corsair attacks was a major factor
apart from socio-economic reasons.

George recounted observations of how contemporary
historians and foreign visitors perceived Maltese men
and women of the period in terms of their physiognomy,
dress, manners, virtues and vices including a staple diet
of “a clove of garlic or onion, anchovies dipped in oil and
saltfish, aside from vegetables, bread, milk and water”.
Observers also commented on customs and rituals
surrounding births, deaths and marriages.
In the next presentation, on 21st October, 2014, the
concluding part will cover Maltese Language/Dialect, the
proliferation of prostitution – which nearly claimed the
downfall of Grand Master La Cassière; the high
incidence of illegitimacy; the Nobility and Organized


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