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A Month Of: Brief Histories of British Empire Territories – Malta

Malta

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Above: Flag of Malta from 1943-1964

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Malta is a southern European country in the centre of the Mediterranean, it is one of the world’s smallest states but also one of the most densely populated. Malta has long been an island of strategic importance not just for the British but for the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Knights of St. John, to mention a few.

Malta became part of the British Empire under the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Malta became a shipping station and fleet headquarters under the empire due to its halfway location between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. It was not until the opening of the Suez Canal that Malta enjoyed a tremendous boost in its economy. But the benefits did not last forever. The 1940s saw Malta’s economy suffer due to its dependence on shipping and with technological improvements ships tended to have longer ranges, and so Malta’s strategic position was no longer needed.

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However, its proximity to shipping lanes did mean that Malta played an important role in the Second World War. But Malta did not just remain a strategic position during the war. The Siege of Malta brought the war directly to her shores. King George VI awarded the people of Malta collectively the George Cross for their bravery during the siege.

‘To bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will be long famous in history’.

The 1960s saw intense negotiations between the Prime Minister of Malta George Borg Olivier and the United Kingdom, after which Malta was granted independence on September 21st 1964. Malta retained Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. A governor-general exercises effective authority on her behalf.

Upon independence Malta became the Republic of Malta but was still heavily influenced by British rule. Their parliamentary system and public administration were modelled on the Westminster system of the UK.

Major sources of limestone, a favourable geographical location and a productive labour force as well as foreign trade, manufacturing and tourism and film production all contribute to the nation’s economy.

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