Malta became independent in 1964, leaving the British Empire to become its own Republic and eventually join the EU as an active member in European politics. The development of these small islands to their own sovereign state is a varied and interesting journey.
The islands’ story begins in 4500 BC when residents of Sicily expanded their civilisation across the water and built homes into the caves which can still be seen today. The Arabic settlement around 870 AD passed on some Arabic influences in the language and food of Malta. Many of the main ingredients in Maltese dishes like figs, almonds and various spices were brought to the islands through the Arab trade routes. During this time there was a lot of development including the walls that were built to prevent erosion and protect the city of Medina which can still be visited.
The early islanders also built some impressive temples including some of the oldest in the world such as the Gantija temples of Gozo. There are also many dolmens to be seen on the islands which date back the Bronze Age. These are made of large stone slabs that look like an altar and are the remains of the various settlements of this period. As the developed world grew around these small islands they became an integral part of the Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman empires. The remains of these stunning cultural kingdoms can still be seen over the islands where the ancient ruins and temples are well-preserved for those who wish to explore the vast heritage of the large cities of Malta.
The strategic position of Malta has made it a focal point during international conflicts, including during the Second World War where it endured over 2 years of air raids from Italian and German forces. This led to King George 5th awarding the George Cross to the Maltese people in 1942 for their heroism. Since this the Cross has been woven into the national flag of Malta as a reminder of the bravery of previous generations.
As a previous part of the British Empire, much of Malta’s legislative and bureaucratic systems still replicate those of the UK, including a large amount of their education system. Both English and Maltese have remained as official languages to mark the shared history the two nations have. The quaint sight of charming, British style red telephone boxes, driving on the left and an abundance of classic British cars on the islands are just a few signs of a lasting British influence.
The final part of Malta’s transition to its current independent status was its acceptance into the European Union in 2004, adopting both EU legislation and the Euro as their national currency. A huge step for Malta in controlling its own sovereignty with self-governance.
To find out more about the history of Malta there are many museums to visit on the islands. The Gozo Museum of Archaeology is in Victoria, Gozo. The National Museum of Archaeology and the National War Museum both be found in Valletta and the Mnajdra Temples which are available to visit in Qrendi among many others.