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History[edit | edit source]
Through its long history, Malta has been subject to complex influences. Malta fell in succession under the domain of the Swabian house of Hohenstaufen in 1194, the Angevins, in 1268, the Aragonese in 1283 and the Castilians in 1410. In the 1400s Maltese people suffered piratical raids and pestilence as well as famine. Then starting in 1488 they endured attacks by the Turks.
In 1530 the Holy Roman Emperor ceded Malta to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, with a mandate to defend Tripoli against Turkish invasion. During the latter 1500s and 1600s Malta prospered as a trading center. Yet by the early 1700s the island's fortunes had declined. The French army under Napoleon Bonaparte captured Malta in June 1798, and used it as a base to invade Egypt. The British navy expelled the French garrison in 1800. A move to return the islands to the Knights of St. John in 1802 provoked a petition from the inhabitants for British protection. Malta became British under the Treaty of Paris in 1814.
Malta prospered as a free port, used by British shipping to the Adriatic and the Near East. In 1827 it became the base of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The island greatly flourished during the Crimean War in 1854-1856. After the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, Malta benefited from the increased volume of shipping through the Mediterranean.
By 1905 the naval dockyard, together with British defense services, was the basis of the Maltese economy. Malta was blockaded and attacked from the air during the Second World War. Power of government was shared between British and Maltese ministers until 1964 when Malta achieved independence within the British commonwealth. Malta gained full sovereignty and independence in 1974.
Timeline[edit | edit source]
1530 - Emperor Charles V gives Malta to Knights of St. John of Jerusalem
1798 - Napoleon occupies Malta
1800 - Malta becomes a British protectorate
1814 -Malta becomes a British colony
1940 - World War II--bombing destroyed many records, especially church records
1964 - Malta became an independent nation
1974 - Malta became a republic
Population Statistics[edit | edit source]
By the time Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in A.D. 60, the islands had already been inhabited for thousands of years. Based on the archeological remains there must have been several thousand people there. The early population of Malta has been estimated at 20,000 inhabitants in year 1000. In 1530 the Knights of St. John counted about 20,000 and their arrival on the islands added another 5,000 inhabitants. In 1632 the population was 52,900; in 1798 it stood at 100,000. The rate of population growth increased in the 1800s. The 1842 census of Malta counted 113,364 inhabitants, and in 1875 the population was roughly 150,000. By 1900 the population was 190,000, in 1925 approximately 250,000. The rate of growth slowed in the 1900s due to emigration, with a net loss of 100,000 inhabitants just since the 1930s. The population reached 310,000 in 1950. Emigration has slowed in recent years. Since 1975 the number of Maltese citizens returning from abroad has exceeded the number leaving. The population in 1997 is estimated at 366,000. Most of these live on the island of Malta; about 8% live on Gozo; Comino has only a small number of inhabitants.
Malta is now one of the most densely populated countries in the world with an average of about 1,100 people per square kilometer / 2,880 per square mile. Overpopulation has long been a problem on Malta. As a result, large number of Maltese emigrated to Australia, United States, Great Britain, Canada, France, and Egypt, especially in the first half of the twentieth century.
According to tradition, the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked in Malta in A.D. 60 and from that date the inhabitants of Malta have been Christians. Roman Catholicism has long been the established religion of the island. Today it is the national religion claiming more than 95% of the population as adherents. However, Anglicanism was firmly established in 1838 when Queen Adelaide founded the Anglican Church of St. Paul in Valletta. With many British citizens inhabiting the island until the Second World War, the percentage of Anglicans was as high as 8%. Presently the Anglican population is less than 1.5%. Since the 1950s, members of other Christian religions make up a small portion of the populace. Most significant are the Jehovah’s Witnesses who constitute as much as 3 to 4% of the population.