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In this presentation, I am going to tackle the physical evidence of military and strategic development in Malta during the Colonial Period. Throughout this period, Malta was the British major naval base in the Mediterranean especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. From the middle of the 19th Century technological development was very rapid, and this dictated the patterns of fortifications.  The building of Fortification was also the result of international affairs in which Britain was involved.


History of Fortifications in Malta

When the Knights came to Malta in 1530 the only work of fortifications were the Castrum Maris and Mdina.  In the following years, before the Siege of 1565, Vittoriosa and Senglea were fortified with bastions while on the head of Sceberras Peninsula Fort St. Elmo was constructed. After the siege, these works were in ruins and the priority was the reconstruction of the destroyed fortifications as well as the construction of a new walled city  Valletta. In the next step after completing, Valletta was the building of new fortifications around the Harbour such as the Floriana Landfront and the Cottonera Lines. The Building of forts around the Harbour, such as Fort Manoel and Fort Ricasoli was another step in ensuring the safety of the Maltese Harbours. The Orderís attention quickly turned on defence the various beaches and inlets around Malta as some of them proved vulnerable to enemy landing. Coastal Towers and Watch Towers were built in the 17th Century and by the late 18th Century Coastal Batteries, redoubts and entrenchments defended most of the accessible coast around Malta.  The knights indeed had left an impressive array of fortifications many of which survive till this day. This introduction on the Orders fortifications was based on the on Stephen Spiteri; Fortress Of the Cross where in this book there is an account of all the fortifications built by the Knights.


In 1798, the Knights capitulated Malta to the French.  In the book The French in Malta, Carmel Testa makes it clear that the French invasion was supported by some of the Knights and a small number of Maltese. However, the French effective rule on the Island lasted only 3 months as by September 1798 they found themselves locked up in within the major fortifications since the Maltese insurgents outnumbered them.  Only an effective blockade would have succeeded in the surrender of the French as siege was completely out of question. During the Blockade, the Maltese raised some fortifications around the walled cities however according to contemporary drawings these works were mere simple gun platforms. The Maltese with the help of the British managed to blockade the Harbour and after 2 years the French had no option but to surrender.

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