Malta Historical Society History Week 2023 themed around ‘Paths to Independence’

The Malta Historical Society (MHS) has prepared three days of seminars as part of this year’s edition of MHS History Week, the first one having been held in 1981. This year, MHS History week will be held at the Società Filarmonica Nazionale La Valette in Valletta, with the chosen theme “The Paths to Independence: Transitions & Transformations (1914-1964)”.

At the entrance to Maglio Gardens in Floriana is a bronze and marble lady draped in the Maltese flag, standing proudly at 8.5 metres. The Independence Monument was built by John Bonnici in 1989, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Malta’s independence on 21 September 1964. From Thursday November 9 to Saturday November 11. The turbulent story of Malta’s historic triumph will be pieced together more cohesively, through an examination of the ups and downs that led to the island nation-state’s establishment.

From the anti-colonial stance of Enrico Mizzi up until the signature of Giorgio Borg Olivier on the declaration of Malta’s independence, Maltese people underwent numerous changes and metamorphoses. This era 1914 to 1964, produced a number of vectors that helped to establish Malta’s national identity, beyond the partisan and emotional distortions.

According to Maltese historian Henry Frendo, “The British presence both restrained and assisted the slow crystallisation of a national identity and of a consciousness of it”. This journey brought with it unexpected possibilities for the formation of a Maltese identity, and there’s more to it than saints and fireworks. In a way, Malta becoming a social nation led to it becoming a nation-state by proxy. “The Paths to Independence.” is a chance to further understand the processes and nuances which moulded Malta.

The MHS History Week 2023 will feature seasoned historians and new upcoming ones alike. The sessions will investigate such questions as; What distinguishes Malta so greatly from other Mediterranean islands? What political developments—though not limited to them—were encountered in the lead-up to Malta’s status as an independent nation? What changes and adjustments did the Maltese undergo on their way to victory? Here’s a look at the programme:

independence monument, floriana

On the first day, November 9, Joseph Pirotta will start us off with ‘Overcoming The Dependence Syndrome’, followed by Mark A. Sammut Sassi who’ll be presenting ‘Constitutional Law as History’, then ‘Human Rights and the Maltese Trial for Freedom:The role of international human rights and decolonisation in the Independence of Malta’ by Bernice Zarb. These will commence at 6:30 pm

Next, on November 10, Charles Xuereb will present ‘Inveigled Collective Memory Generates Postcolonial Identity’. Ensuingly, Sandro Debono will give a ta talk on ‘Masterpieces of Absence: Shaping the building blocks of a Maltese Museological Framework’. Then, Shanaia Bellizzi will delve into ‘Maltese Emigration from 1920 to 1964’, after which  Svetlana Sivova Spiteriwill present ‘The Legal Statute of Malta’s maritime trade with the Balkans at the beginning of the First World War (1914-1915)’. The second day’s sessions start off at 6 pm.

On the third and final day, November 11, Giovanni Bonello will begin with ‘Self-Government 1921 and Artistic Creativity’, followed by Thomas Aquilina with  ‘Operation Husky: Malta’s Role in the Liberation of Europe’. Next, Marco Galea & Jonathan Grima will speak on ‘Reverberations of History: Malta’s National Theatre Project’. Lastly, Kathrina Farrugia-Kriel will present ‘Contretemps: Writing ballet histories of Princess Nathalie Poutiatine (1904-84) during the Self-Government abolition years in Malta (1933-47). These talks will take place from 9:30 am onwards. 

These presentations are free to attend and open to the public. The proceedings and contributions of MHS History Week 2023 will eventually be compiled into a book format and made available for purchase.