The island of Malta is situated in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Italy. It comprises three islands: Malta, Comino, and Gozo, of which Malta is the biggest island. Malta is a popular tourist destination that is well known for its breath-taking landscapes and warm climate. However, Malta hasn’t always been a popular tourist resort. In fact, it has changed a lot over the years. Below we’re going to discuss what Malta was like in the 19th century:
Demographic Growth During the 19th Century
The population of Malta was approximately 100,000 in 1800, but this figure surpassed 250,000 by the end of WWII and rose to over 300,000 by 1960. During the 19th century, most of the Maltese population lived in the harbour towns.
Standard of Living in the 19th Century
Thanks to the huge increase in population, and the long period of economic stagnation in Malta at the start of the 19th century, there was a general decline in the standard of living of the working class. However, after 1850, things began to change as a consequence of the Crimean War and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Despite this, Malta didn’t begin to compare favourably with other Mediterranean regions until after WWII.
The low standards of living in Malta were reflected in the houses, food, clothes, the number of homeless people on the streets, and the quality of leisure activities. Bread was one of the main foods consumed by the lower classes, as they were unable to afford anything more substantial.
Emigration in the 19th Century
Malta has always been a beautiful place to live. However, despite this, emigration was still popular in Malta in the 19th Century. Evidence suggests that the first attempt to create a Maltese colony of Migrants in Corfu was in 1826. After this date, other successful colonies were formed in Mediterranean and North African ports. By 1842 over 20,000 Maltese emigrants were living in Mediterranean countries. This was roughly 15% of the entire Maltese population.
Malta became a British Colony
In 1800, Malta became a British colony, and its main role was that of a fortress. Despite becoming a British colony, the Maltese mixed very little with the British. However, WWII bought about a change in the mentality of the population. The war bonded the Maltese and the British together as they had both fought hard to defeat a common enemy. After the war, many parts of Malta chose to adopt an anglicized style of sub-culture.
Improvements in Transport and Communication in Malta During the 19th Century
The British period coincided with improvements in transport and communication. These improvements had a huge effect on the Maltese. Until the 1850s, the only form of transport in Malta was by carriage, but new forms of transport were introduced shortly after this period, including the horse-drawn omnibus and trains.
Improvements continued to be made throughout the 19th century with the introduction of scheduled buses and a scheduled ferry service. However, these weren’t the only improvements we saw during this period. We also saw improvements to the roads and streets too, with many roads being asphalted and streetlights being introduced. This made travel much easier and brought people closer together.
Agriculture in the 19th Century
Malta was primarily an agricultural country for the majority of the 19th century. However, despite being an agricultural country, it was unable to feed the population of Malta for more than four months each year. For the rest of the year, large quantities of food had to be purchased from abroad. This was because the people did not have the money or knowledge to farm the land properly.
Diseases in the 19th Century
The most common diseases in the 19th century were cholera, the plague, undulant fever, smallpox, leprosy, trachoma, and tuberculosis. These diseases were commonplace thanks to the poor living conditions of the lower classes. Thankfully, the number of cases began to drop after WWII.
The Development of Early Tourism
During the 19th century, the Tourism Development Act was introduced. This act was designed to establish tourism as a pillar of the Maltese economy. They also hoped that this act would attract more foreign investment to the country.
However, despite the Tourist Development Act being introduced, tourists were unable to visit certain areas of Malta. This included the silent city of Mdina. Mdina is surrounded by a series of defensive walls that are built to keep outsiders out. Thankfully Mdina today is nothing like it was in the 19th century and tourists are now able to visit this beautiful city.
As you can see, the country of Malta has changed a lot since the 19th century. No longer is Malta a struggling country, instead, it is now a thriving tourist destination that is popular with visitors all around the world.