Past Events

March 2016 Event

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Professor Maurice Cauchi:  As Others See Us:  

(What visitors to Malta over the ages had to say about Malta)

Summary:  Charles Gatt


Malta and Gozo were mentioned by early Greek writers and poets during 

img 8702the Greek and Phoenicians expansion into the western Mediterranean.  Around 300 BC, Callimachus identified the island of 'Gaudos' with the island of Calypso. 



The first Latin reference to Malta is by the Roman poet and historian Naevius (270 – c. 201 BC).  In his epic poem, Bellum Punicum, he described how the island was plundered and laid waste by fire around 256 BC, during the first Punic War.  Livy wrote that in 218 BC, during the second Punic War, Hamilcar, not the one who was Hannibal’s father but the commander of a Carthaginian garrison of 2000 soldiers, surrendered the island to the Romans and Malta became part of the Roman province of Sicily. 

 Professor Cauchi speaking to the MHA     Photo: Lewis Zammit





February 2016 Event

Saturday, 12 March 2016


Women in Malta in the Eighteenth Century


 Professor Yosanne Vella

 Summary:  Charles Gatt   Photos: Lewis Zammit.


At our February lecture Professor Yosanne Vella gave some insight into the lives of Maltese
women in the eighteenth century, pieced together from notary archives, inquisitor records and court cases.  Malta thrived under the Knights.  By the end of the eighteenth century, the population had risen from about 10,000 to 100,000.  Most worked in agriculture, followed by corsairing, and Malta was starting to become a commercial centre. 

Women worked unpaid at home and on family farms but a register of paid labourers on the Order’s farms showed about a quarter were female. Textile production employed females as cotton spinners and weavers, and some ran businesses.  Licences were awarded to women for a variety of shops, and as innkeepers and hawkers. Prostitution seemed to be an acceptable occupation.

Women were both victims and perpetrators of crime.  Many filed accusations of theft.  Violence against women was rampant and many injuries were serious.  Women were charged with non payment of debts, illegal gambling in their taverns, abuse and blasphemy, drunkenness and fighting.  Petty theft was common and servants stole valuables.  Punishments included warnings, fines, imprisonment or even exile to Gozo! 

There is very little evidence of women’s education in the 18th Century. Most people were illiterate, women probably even more so.  Schools are mentioned but little is known about them.  De Soldanis, the official librarian of the Order, lamented that, unlike overseas, Maltese girls were not sent to school in Rome or elsewhere.  He noted many girls roamed the countryside, unemployed and begging.  He believed women were ambitious and willing to succeed, and envisaged girls’ boarding schools to teach ‘womanly virtues’ but it is unknown whether any eventuated.

A woman could achieve social status as a nun or as a bizocca.  The latter did not take religious vows but lived a saintly, celibate life.  De Soldanis credited them with miraculous powers.  However, many other women were brought before the Inquisition accused of dabbling in the occult, placing curses or practising medicine illegally. 

Maltese women suffered many restrictions and limitations in legal and social rights.  They were not directly involved in any great events in the 18th century but their contribution to the growth and development of their society should not be overlooked or undervalued. 

To read the full article please see the March 2016 Newsletter (pages 2 - 3)

Click here to listen to Prof Yosanne Vella's talk (1:05:32)



September 2015 Eventlecture

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Great Siege of Malta, 1565: Lecture 3 of 3

THE GREAT SIEGE OF MALTA: The Final Stages & Aftermath

Robert Blythe

A number of people, including some younger ones, attended Robert Blythe’s lecture on 15 September.  He introduced his talk with a summary of the main events of the siege.  The Turkish Armada set sail from Constantinople on 22 March 1565, arrived at Marsaxlokk on 18 May then transported their
supplies and munitions to Marsa.  The assault on Fort St Elmo resulted in its fall on 23 June 1565, shortly after Dragut’s death on 18 June.



June 2015 Lecture

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Great Siege of Malta, 1565: Lecture 2 of 3

Lecture by Joseph Borg

Mr Borg started off with a short review of the first lecture. He then read an extract from the book, The Siege of Malta 1565, by Francisco Balbi di Correggio, relating to the events that happened on the 16th June 1565, exactly 450 years earlier.  This reading described many of the topics that Mr Borg wanted to talk about later in the evening.



May 2015 Lecture

Saturday, 13 June 2015


The Events that led to the Great Siege of Malta 1565

Summary of May Lecture by Joseph Borg

The reasons for the Great Siege of Malta of 1565 have their roots going back to the rise of Islam in 630.  With the expansion of Islam, the Holy lands fell under their influence.  This affected the Eastern Roman Empire as well.  Later, the spread of the Mongolian hordes impacted on the eastern end of this empire.




April 2015 Event

World War I:  Malta, Australia and the ANZACS
Mario Bonnici

On Tuesday 21 April, Mario Bonnici gave a fascinating talk to the Maltese Historical Association.  We saw how the assassination of the Archduke of Austria started the Great War. The main combatants were, on one side, the Allied Powers, which included France, Russia, Britain and later Japan and the United States, and on the other, the Central Powers, which included Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Malta was part of the British Empire but it was not directly involved in World War I. However, there were about 30,000 Maltese enlisted in the Royal or Merchant Navies and many Maltese civilians were engaged at the Malta Dockyard, as the Mediterranean fleet was partly based in Malta.  Most of the Maltese in the Navies were employed as stewards, cooks, stokers, firemen and bandsmen. As many worked below deck, they lost their lives when the ships were sunk by enemy torpedoes.  A large number hailed from the Grand Harbour area.



March 2015 Event

Monday, 20 April 2015

Malta through its Monuments


Professor Maurice Cauchi

There are many ways at which to look at Maltese history, whether through its political involvement, through its social history, the arts, etc.  In the past talks to the MHA have included topics relating to history through stamps, coins, buses etc

In this talk, the history of Malta was approached from a look at its monuments, which highlight the various epochs of life in Malta.

To start with, the speaker emphasized that monuments consist not only of bronze statues, but any artefact that serve to highlight some aspect of Maltese history.  From this point of view, even the prehistoric temples constitute important monuments to a way of life that has long disappeared.

This was followed by a fallow period, with a dearth of artefacts which lasted until the Phoenician and later on the Roman period. Some outstanding examples of these were illustrated in this talk.

Again this was followed by a period where monuments are not very common. In particular, the Arab period is represented by very few artefacts which remind us of this period. However, it was stressed that perhaps the greatest 'monument' bequeathed to us from this period is the Maltese language itself. It is arguable whether our unique language would have persisted but for the presence of the Arab domination.

When we come to the period of the Knights of Malta, there is such a plethora of riches that it is difficult to summarise in a few words. This period has been covered already, and will be covered in talks to come.

The talk itself dealt with various other aspects of history. Firstly, recent political history, starting with the British domination. Monuments about this period can be found all over the island. Then the history of Malta's first step to self-government and future independence.

Other aspects of the talk dealt with the history of literature and the arts in Malta, an area which is often neglected when we talk about Maltese history. Important also is the history of migration, which was such a hallmark of Maltese history. Several monuments now remind us of this history.

Finally, it was emphasized that the history of the nation is not the history of wars or even politicians, but that of the people, including the social aspects of those factors which mould such a history.  Among these were included several philanthropists who have been a boon to the people of Malta.

Malta through its Monuments


Professor Maurice Cauchi


February 2015 Event:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015


Elections in Malta 1947 - 2013

The triumph of democracy and constitutional progress

Albert Farrugia PhD

Prior to World War 2, the British had awarded a number of constitutions to Malta. 150217 Albert FarrugiaThe self-governing constitution of 1921 restricted the vote to literate males who owned rental yielding property.  The main contenders were either pro-Italian or pro-British. The former won most elections and would go on to become the Nationalist Party (PN).  The latter, led by Gerald Strickland, won the 1927 election, in coalition with the very small Labour Party.  Condemned by the church, they lost the next election handsomely, and the constitution was suspended in 1932.  

Following the war, the 1947 Constitution awarded the vote to all men and women over 21, irrespective of education and economic status. The elections were held using the single transferable vote system, which usually translates into seats. 

The Nationalist party was weak and demoralised after the war.  The Labour Party, led by Dr Paul Boffa, absorbed the anti-Nationalist forces and, supported by the Trade Unions, won a sweeping victory, with 60% of the vote and 24 of 40 seats, an achievement unparalleled before or since.





Annual General Meeting November 2014

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Annual General Meeting of The Maltese Historical Association was held at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 18 November 2014 at the Maltese Community Centre, 477 Royal Parade, Parkville. A summary follows:


 The AGM was well attended, with 25 members present.  After receiving a number of apologies, Charles Gatt, the Secretary, read the minutes of the last AGM and SGM.  Joseph Borg then gave the President’s Annual Report, which will be posted to the MHA website shortly. 



October 2014 Event: Malta between the 15th and 18th centuries; an overview from a historical and social perspective (Part 2)

Saturday, 01 November 2014

Presentation by George Portelli

George introduced the evening by reviewing his previous lecture, and then explained how the names of some early villages started with Ħal, as in Ħal-Qormi or Ħal-Zebbuġ. Ħal is short for Raħal, which comes from the Arabic Rhal, meaning a stopping place after a journey.  They were used by farmers walking their merħla (flock of sheep).  Eventually these resting places developed into razzetti (farmhouses), then hamlets, villages and towns.  In Gozo, this did not apply, because of the many invasions by the Barbary Corsairs, especially when they were based in Comino.  The inhabitants of Gozo tended to cluster around the main citadel of Rabat.  No towns in Gozo begin with Ħal.



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