Malta has had a rich and varied history. There are many books on all periods and view points on the history of Malta and any visitor to Malta would be enriched by reading some of them to gain more knowledge of the history here. This should provide a brief overview, and hopefully kindle some interest in learning more about Malta’s history.
Malta has been inhabited for thousands of years. Some of the oldest megalithic temples in the world are in Malta at sites such as Hagar Qimand Ġgantija. Phoenician traders used Malta as a staging post before the Romans arrived in 218 BCE. During this time it is believed that Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on the islands and there is a monument to him near St. Paul’s Bay in the north of the island.
Arabs arrived in 870 CE and occupied the islands until 1090 when Count Roger the Norman took over Malta. Legend says that When he discovered that Malta had no flag, he tore off part of his tunic and gave it to the Maltese. This patch of cloth is what today has become the basis of our national flag.
In 1530, having been ejected from their previous home island of Rhodes, the Knights Hospitaller led by Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valetta were given the islands by King Charles v of Spain. Aside from the Great Siege of 1565, the knights stayed on the islands without trouble until 1798 when Napoleon Bonarparte arrived with his fleet and forced them to leave.
Very soon the French proceeded to strip Malta of her valuables. When the churches were looted the Maltese population rebelled and succeeded in containing the French inside the fortified city of Valletta where they were remained until the British Royal Navy agreed to escort the French off Maltese soil in 1800.
Due to excellent harbouring facilities and a strategic position, Britain made Malta the base for the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. During the Second World War, Malta was able to severely disrupt supplies to Rommel’s Afrika Korps. At one point Malta was the most heavily bombed place on Earth. Malta resisted the Axis forces and in 1942 King George V awarded Malta the George Cross, declaring
To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.
After the war and a change of government Malta requested and gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. Then in 1979 the last of the British Military personnel left the island.
In 2003 Malta joined the European Union and adopted the Euro as the official currency five years later in 2008.