Since Neolithic times, for over 8,000 years, Malta has been populated and remains of the earliest inhabitants can still be found on the island. The large structures of Neolithic temples are still standing in the south of the island of Malta (Tarxien Temples, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra), and in Gozo (Ggantija). Scientists reckon that some of these temples were erected around one thousand years before the construction of the famous pyramids of Giza in Egypt, and are believed to be the oldest freestanding monuments in the world. After the Neolithic culture faded away, around 2,000 B.C., the island was conquered by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs respectively.

During the Middle Ages, Malta was involved in the Byzantine-Arab Wars and was invaded by the Arabs, who introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton to the island. The Arabs also brought over the Siculo-Arabic language from Sicily, to which Malta was closely affiliated at the time. The language would eventually evolve into current-day Maltese. The Arabs allowed the native Christians to practice their religion but were discriminated against by being charged with an extra tax.

The Normans seized Malta around 1091, and were welcomed by the native Christians, who will have been pleased to see Roman-Catholicism reintroduced as the state religion. The Maltese islands became part of the Kingdom of Sicily, which also covered a large part of present day Italy.

The Order of Knights of St John (also known as the Knights of Malta) ruled the islands from 1530 until 1798. The Knights improved living conditions across the Island building hospitals, stimulated trade and commerce and erected strong fortifications. During their rule, the Knights successfully held out for many months throughout the horrific fighting and massive assaults by Ottoman invaders, now coined The Great Siege of 1565.

In 1798 Napoleon’s army conquered the island, easily removing the Knights of St John from power, who had not been prepared for the force with which the French charged. In the six days that followed the conquest a civil code was laid down for Malta. Slavery was abolished and all Turkish slaves were freed. Napoleon himself created a primary and secondary education system and a more scientific based university replaced the old one.

The British Throne took over Malta after Napoleon’s demise and ruled the islands for the next 160 years. Malta was bombed persistently by German forces during World War II in an attempt to take over the Malta, which was known as a location of high strategic importance for both trade and conflict. Malta was bombed more heavily in 1942 than the whole blitz of London. The British and Maltese unified in their battle for survival and the Germans failed to conquer neither Malta, nor the Maltese.

The determination and strong spirit shown by the population of Malta led King George VI to award Malta the George Cross. His official message, which was engraved in a marble plaque on the façade of the Presidential Palace in Valletta, reads: “To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta, to bear witness to a heroism and a devotion that will long be famous in history.” This award is still part of the national flag of Malta and is seen as a symbol of a proud nation. The Maltese gained their independence from the British in 1964 and the country would continue as a sovereign state and republic. Since May 2003, Malta is a member of the European Union and a popular tourist destination for many Europeans.

 

Timeline of Malta’s modern history

B.C. – Pre-history and classical Malta (5000-218 B.C.)

5000 First human settlers. Ghar Dalam phase.
3600-2500 Megalithic temples constructed.
2000-1400 Bronze-using people.
800-480 Phoenician rule
700-600 Greek influence.
480-218 Carthaginian rule.
264-146 Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome.
218 Roman rule begins during the 2nd Punic War.

A.D. – Classical and Medieval Malta (60-1530)

60 Shipwreck of St. Paul the Apostle.
117-138 Islands become municipium under Emperor Hadrian.
395-870 Byzantine rule.
454 Islands occupied by the Vandals (?)
464 Islands occupied by the Goths (?)
533 Islands restored to Byzantine rule (?)
870-1090 Arab rule.
870 Aglabiti (Tunisian) Arabs invade Malta and expel the Byzantine.
1048 First Byzantine attempts to regain islands.
1091-1194 Norman rule.
1091 Count Roger of Hauteville, aka the Norman, takes Malta and imposed taxes but leaves Arab rulers
1127 Roger II, Count Roger’s son, establishes Norman rule
1122 Arab uprising fails.
1144 Second Byzantine attempt to regain islands.
1154 John made Bishop of Palermo and Malta.
1154-1205 Genoese influence.
1194-1266 Swabian rule.
1224 Final expulsion of Arabs from Sicily and Malta.
1266-1283 Angevin rule. Creation of the Universita’ (body of administration and not academic institution).
1282 Sicilian Vespers (uprising against Angevin (French) rule).
1283-1412 Aragonese rule.
1412-1530 Aragonese and Castilian rule.
1350 Establishment of Maltese Nobility.
1350-1357 First incorporation into Royal Domain (of Aragon)
1393-1397 Time of the Tyrants – Malta given to feudal lords.
1397-1420 Second incorporation into Royal Domain.
1420 Feudal possession of Don Antonio Cardona.
1425 Revolt against Don Consalvo de Monroy.
1429 Tunisian Saracens fail to capture of islands.
1428-1530 Last incorporation into Royal Domain.

The Knights of St. John (1530-1798)

1530 Knights of St. John take possession
1551 Dragut, prominent Turkish corsair, raids Gozo.
1561 Inquisition officially established.
1565 Great Siege. Malta besieged by Turks but the Knights helped by the Maltese resist and win.
1566 Founding of Valletta, the new capital city named after Grand Master La Valette, hero of the Great Siege.
1568 Jean Parisot La Valette buried in Valletta.
1571 Battle of Lepanto. Christian victory over Turks.
1573 Foundation stone laid for St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
1592 Founding of Jesuits College, which later becomes the academic University of Malta.
1615 Wignacourt Aqueduct completed to supply fresh water to Valletta.
1676 School of Anatomy and Surgery founded at the Sacred Infirmary, the Knight’s hospital in Valletta.
1732 Manoel Theater dedicated.
1768 Jesuits expelled and property transferred to the Knights by Papal Order.
1769 Conversion of Jesuits College to a University.
1775 Uprising of the priests brutally repressed.
1784 Creation of a legal code by Grand Master De Rohan.
1792 Possessions of the Knights of St. John located in France seized by the French revolutionary government.

The French Occupation (1798-1800)

1798 June 9th A French army under Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the Maltese Islands on its way to Egypt. The
Knights of St. John expelled after 268 years in Malta. Inquisition abolished.
1798
September 2nd
The Maltese revolt against the French when these confiscate property belonging to the Maltese Church. The French take refuge behind the walls of Valletta and Cottonera and a two-year siege begins.
1799 Dun Mikiel Xerri and other Maltese executed by the French after a failed plot to storm the Valletta walls. The British take the islands under their protection in the name of the King of Two Sicilies.
1800
September
The French surrender.

The British Period (1800-1964)

1800 The French capitulate. British rule begins.
1802 Treaty of Amiens. The Napoleonic Wars resume because of Malta.
1813 The Bathurst Constitution
1814 Treaty of Paris. Malta declared free of the plague.
1815 Congress of Vienna affirms Treaty of Paris.
1828 Vatican Church-State proclamation. Right of Sanctuary revoked.
1831 (Church) See of Malta made independent of See of Palermo.
1833 Construction begins on Mosta dome.
1835 First Council of Government under British rule.
1839 Abolition of Press censorship. Laying of cornerstone for St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral.
1846 Carnival riots.
1849 Council of Government with elected members under British rule.
1869 Opening of the Suez Canal.
1870 Referendum on Ecclesiastics serving on Council of Government.
1881 Anglo-Egyptian Bank founded in Malta
1882 Creation of Executive Council under British rule.
1883 Malta Railway begins operation.
1885 First postage stamps issued.
1886 Surgeon Major David Bruce discovers microbe causing Malta Fever.
1887 Council of Government with “dual control” under British rule.
1888 Construction begins on Royal Opera House.
Simmons-Rampolla agreement (Vatican-British)
1903 Return to the 1849 form of Council of Government under British rule.
1904 Tram service begins.
1905 Dr. Themistocles Zammit discovers source of Malta Fever.
1911 English overtakes Italian as the secondary language after Maltese, increasing tensions between Italophile (anti-colonial) and Anglophile (pro-colonial) political parties. This division dominates Maltese politics in the period leading up to World War II.
1912 Dun Karm writes his first poem in Maltese.
1914-18 World War I; Malta is not directly involved in the fighting but becomes known as the “Nurse of the Mediterranean”.
1919 Sette Giugno riots sparked by cost of living. National Assembly convened.
Self-government granted under British rule. The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) is the first Maltese trade union.
1921 First Parliament opens. Joseph Howard named Prime Minister.
1923 The Maltese National Anthem, “Innu Malti” played first time in public. Dr. Francesco Buhagiar becomes Prime Minister.
1924 Sir Ugo P. Mifsud becomes Prime minister.
1927 Sir Gerald Strickland becomes Prime Minister. The Malta Labour Party comes to power for the first time together with Strickland’s party.
1930 Constitution suspended because of a political-religious dispute between Strickland and the Church.
1931 Malta railway closes.
1932 Constitution restored under British rule. Sir Ugo Mifsud becomes Prime Minister.
1933 Constitution withdrawn as Fascist Italy increases its influence on Malta. Malta reverts to the Crown Colony status it held in 1813.
1934 Malti and English become dual official languages.
The first official grammar for the Maltese Language published.
1935 Rediffusion Radio launched, with the aim of countering Fascist propaganda from Italy.
1936 Constitution revised to provide for nomination of members to Executive Council under British
rule.
1939 Constitution revised to provide for an elected Council of Government under British rule. Germany invades Poland and WWII starts
1939-45 World War II.
1940 On June 11th the first Italian bombs are dropped in Malta
1941 Daring Italian e-boat attack on Grand Harbour fails. British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious damaged, bombed, repaired and departs. The Germans join the Italians in bombing Malta.
1942 Award of the George Cross to the people of Malta to honour their bravery. Operation Pedestal Convoy arrives in Grand Harbour and saves Malta from starvation and surrender.
1943 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and King George VI visit Malta. Invasion of Sicily from Malta. Italy surrenders on the 8th of September and the Italian Fleet comes to Malta. The General Workers Union, Malta’s largest trade union, set-up.
1945 Churchill and Roosevelt meet in Malta prior to the Yalta Conference with Stalin.
1946 National Assembly results in 1947 constitution under British rule.
1947 Self-government restored under British rule. Dr. Paul Boffa becomes Prime Minister with a landslide victory for the Malta Labour Party.
1949 A young ambitious politican, Dom Mintoff, brings a split in the MLP.
1950 Dr. Enrico Mizzi becomes Prime Minister from September to December when he dies. Dr. Giorgio Borg Olivier becomes Prime minister in December.
1955 Dom Mintoff becomes Prime Minister. Roundtable Conference held to discuss Malta’s future with Britain
1956 Referendum on Integration with Britain.
1958 Dom Mintoff resigns as Prime Minister and a national strike called by the General Workers Union on the 18th of April ends in clashed between workers, police and British soldiers. Dr. Giorgio Borg Olivier declines forming alternative government. Colonial governor takes direct administration under British rule.
1959 Interim Constitution provides for an Executive Council under British rule.
1961 Blood Commission provides for a new constitution allowing for a measure of self-government and
recognizing the “State” of Malta. Another political-religious struggle erupts between the Church led by Archbishop Gonzi and Mintoff’s MLP.
1962 Dr. Giorgio Borg Olivier becomes Prime Minister.

Independent Malta (1964-to date)

11979 964 “Innu Malti” recognized as the national anthem. Referendum on Independence Constitution. Malta
granted independence, becoming a sovereign nation within the British Commonwealth.
1968 Central Bank established.
1970 Malta enters an Association agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC), today known as the European Union (EU).
1971 Dom Mintoff becomes Prime Minister after Malta Labour PArty wins general election in June. Sir Anthony Mamo becomes the first Maltese national to be named Governor General. He is the last one for the Maltese Islands.
1972 Military base agreement signed by Malta, the United Kingdom and other NATO nations.
The King’s Own Malta Regiment disbanded.
Change to decimal monetary system.
Government bars the U.S. Naval Forces from using Malta as a liberty port.
1973 Formation of Air Malta.
1974 Malta becomes a Republic, remaining in the Commonwealth. Sir Anthony Mamo elected first
President.
Government increases its control over the University.
1975 Barclays Bank International, Ltd. taken over to become Mid-Med Bank.
1976 Dr. Anton Buttigieg becomes second President.
Mintoff confirmed as {Prime Minister after Malta Labour Party is obtains win in general election
1977 Dr. Eddie Fenech Adami elected leader of the Nationalist Party.
1979 Military base agreement terminated. British forces leave. First Freedom Day celebrated on the 31st of March.
1981 The Malta Labour Party wins the general election by its majority of seats in Parliament, but the Opposition Nationalist Party has the absolute majority of votes. The Nationalist Party begins a protest campaign against the unjust election result.
1982 Agatha Barbara becomes third, and first female, President of Malta.
1984 Dr. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici becomes Prime Minister after the resignation of Prime Minister Dom Mintoff.
Stand-off between the government and teachers in a seven-week strike following government’s attempt to make private schooling free of charge.
1987 Dr. Eddie Fenech Adami becomes Prime Minister following a Nationalist victory in the May general election.
1988 Freeport Corporation set-up.
1989 First gathering of Knights of St. John in Malta since their departure in 1798.
U.S.-Soviet Summit meets in Malta to end the Cold War.
Dr. Vincent Tabone elected fourth President.
1990 Government formally applies for full membership in the European Community.
Pope John Paul II makes the first Papal visit in Malta.
Prof. Guido De Marco elected President of 45th Annual UN General Assembly.
1991 Malta Cable Television given license as the first cable tv operator in Malta.
Two Vatican Agreements between the Malta Government and the Holy See signed in Rome.
New Delimara Power Station begins operations.
1992 New Malta International Airport terminal inaugurated.
Nationalist Party wins election. Dr. Alfred Sant elected Leader of the Malta Labour Party as Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici steps down following his party’s defeat.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in Malta for the 50th Anniversary of the awarding of the George Cross.
50th Anniversary of Operation Pedestal, popularly known as the ‘Santa Marija Convoy’ celebrated. Stock Exchange opened.
Maritime Museum opened in Vittoriosa.
1993 The European Union’s first report on Malta says it is eligible for EU membership.
First University degree courses
offered in Gozo.
Government signs the Inter- national Convention banning the use of chemical weapons.
The Fifth Games of the Small States of Europe held in Malta. First elections for Local Councils held.
1994 Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici elected fifth President.
1996 Malta Labour Party wins the elections held in October. Dr. Alfred sworn in as Prime Minister of Malta.
1997 Malta’s application to join the EU is ‘frozen’ (suspended) but not withdrawn in accordance with the MLP’s policy. MLP government instead seeks industrial free trade
zone and closer relations to EU but not membership.
1998 Dr. Alfred Sant calls for a snap election following a vote of no-confidence. Dr. Eddie Fenech Adami is elected Prime Minister after the Nationalist Party wins the election.
1999 Prof. Guido de Marco appointed President of Malta.
2004 Malta joins the European Union after a referendum proves a slight majority of the Maltese population is in favour the previous year.
2008 The country adopts the Euro as its currency.

Sources

  • Berg, Warren G. Historical Dictionary of Malta. Maryland, US: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1995. Miscellaneous other publications
  • Timeline originally compiled by Martin Debattista and published on AboutMalta.com