The Maltese archipelago is one of the most densely populated areas in the Mediterranean basin.
In the early Middle Ages the population of Malta was around 9000 residents; this must have been in 1240, the date of a report by Gilberto to Frederick II (see below: History). It was probably less than that figure in the period immediately following the ouster of the Muslims. The upward trend determined by high prolificacy and immigration was also frustrated in the thirteenth-fifteenth centuries by diseases and barbarian incursions. In 1394 a pilgrim calculated the Maltese hearths to be 4400 (Revue de l’Orient Latin, III, 1895); and perhaps the calculation was superior to reality. For Malta 2007, please check extrareference.com.
In 1429 the main island was literally devastated by the Hafṣida raid. Another cause of depopulation in those times was the racing navy to which the Maltese dedicated themselves or enlisted on Catalan ships and other countries; in 1449 the university had to ban running and enlisting on racing ships because those who had left in previous years had never returned “et accusì è diminutu lu populu”; a similar prohibition was made in 1475. The incessant increase of the Maltese population occurred after the passage under the Order of San Giovanni; immigration from the peninsula for the service of arms, construction, arts and trade also contributed to it; from 18,000 which were calculated in 1531 (Bosio), the Maltese rose to 30,000 in 1590, despite the island of Gozo in the raid made there in I 551 by Darghūt and Sinān pascià, which carried 5,000 people into slavery; they grew to 56,000 in 1632, to 85,000 in 1755 (of which 11,000 in Gozo), to 93,000 in 1807 (of which 12,829 in Gozo).
The trend of the Maltese population in the last century is distinguished by the following facts: continuous natural increase; strong emigration, which was very high until a few years ago; slight immigration of Anglo-Saxon and Italian elements. The official census in 1901 accused a population of 184,742 residents, In 1911 of 211,564, in 1931 of 241,621 (over 16,799 soldiers). From 1918 to 1929, 36,934 emigrated and 25,721 returned home; in 1930 there were about 30,000 Maltese abroad (5000 in Australia, as many in the United States, 2000 in Canada, 3000 in France, several thousand in North Africa). Many Maltese have lost or are losing their nationality; about 10,000 have become French in Tunisia from 1921 to the present.
The birth rate, although in significant contraction even compared to only twenty years ago (40.7 ‰ in 1901), remains at the highest 135 ‰ in 1925), so much so as to determine, as we have seen, a strong emigration current.
Almost all of the population of the archipelago is concentrated on the largest island, in which therefore the density exceeds 850 residents per sq. Km, while this is less than half in Gozo and insignificant in Comino, where a few tens of residents reside (the density of the archipelago as a whole is 817 residents per sq. km.).
The most densely populated area of Malta is located between Valletta and the Old Town (La Notabile) and all around the Grand Harbor and the Port of Marsamuscetto, which contrasts with the western and especially north-western portion of the island, almost completely devoid of centers. As in Sicily, the agricultural population also lives agglomerated, as well as in the major villages (about thirty on the two islands of Malta and Gozo), in large farmhouses, from which farmers leave and to which they return daily (women also participate in agricultural work). The rural dwellings are reminiscent of those in southern Italy and the Aeolian Islands in their type and shape, and as a rule consist of only one floor; they are all built in stone (limestone tuff, or Malta stone), have a flat roof, and for the most part each have their own cistern, in which rainwater is collected. In the villages and cities (Valletta, Old Town, Victoria, the latter on the island of Gozo) the tall white houses, adorned with protruding balconies (galleries) with bright colors and flowered greenhouses are often arranged in an amphitheater, with narrow streets and sometimes with steps, as in many Italian regions. The most notable centers, in addition to the capital, Valletta (22,900 residents in 1931), are: Sliema (19,700 residents), Hamrun (11,600), Floriana (7000), Senglea (7800), Cospicua (12,200) and La Vittoriosa (7100), which, with other smaller centers, almost seamlessly surround the two ports around Valletta, with which they form an urban agglomeration of about 100,000 residents; also, Old Town (10,000 residents), Birchircara (B’cara; 10,300), Curmi (10,200) and, in Gozo, Vittoria (5,500 residents).