Malta History – the Early 20th Century

By | December 26, 2021

The threat was withdrawn in 1902 due to the resistance of the Maltese, who sent a delegation to London, and probably also out of deference to Italian public opinion and the government of Italy. The same year Strickland left Malta; the year before, the nationalist club “La Giovine Malta” had been founded. However, a decree dated September 26, 1901 was not withdrawn, which introduced the principle of “free choice” of the language in which the entrance exams for high school and university were to be held: The Governing Council, who refused to approve that provision, was dissolved in 1903; the liberal constitution of 1887 was repealed and essentially returned to the order of 1849. From 1903 to the beginning of the world war the nationalists persevered in the defense of the Italian language and national privileges, held meetings (Floriana’s was famous in 1904), practiced the system of abstention, refusing to be part of the Executive Council, in which two representatives of the people were admitted from 1909, and resigning in the aftermath of each popular consultation. A British commission that went to Malta in 1911 proposed to the London government to substitute Maltese for Italian in the lower courts and to appoint some English judges; the proposals were opposed by the Maltese with declarations of protest. pari passu with the simultaneous teaching of English and Italian and the use of both languages ​​as a teaching medium in high schools. It should be noted, however, that the situation was increasingly evolving to the detriment of Italian, since it had been excluded from the first two primary schools, in which only English was taught, while the number of subjects taught in English in the university was increasing. For Malta history, please check

During the world war the political struggle was put to rest; after the armistice, the turmoil caused by economic malaise and long-compressed restlessness resulted in demonstrations and popular uprisings; on 7 June 1919 in Valletta four Maltese citizens fell victim to the repression. In the same year a National Assembly of the Maltese people was formed which discussed, formulated, and presented the national demands to the government; on April 15, 1921 Malta had a new constitution, with a Legislative Assembly of 32 all elected members, a 17-member Senate and an Executive Cabinet appointed by the governor (imperial representative) of the administration of the islands in all affairs other than those that were reserved to the imperial authority (defense, relations with foreign countries, etc.). The linguistic question was resolved in art. 57 of the new constitution with the above principle of pari passu integrated with that of “free choice” (faculty of parents and students to choose between English and Italian, if it is not possible, without detriment, to allow the study of the two languages ​​to proceed at the same time). The interpretation of the clause relating to free choice gave rise to disputes and in fact Strickland, who returned to Malta in 1917 and became the head of a constitutional party, interpreted it in the broadest sense in favor of English. The Minister of Education Monsignor Luigi Ferris presented a law for the loyal application of the pari passu in the sense of having Italian and English begin at the same time from 1st grade; fought by the majority of the two chambers, he resigned. The nationalist coalition, which came to the government in 1924 (led by Ugo Mifsud and Enrico Mizzi, son of Fortunato), tried to ensure that the 1921 constitution was scrupulously observed; instead the Strickland which came to power in 1927 did everything to undermine it and also ended up raising a conflict with the Vatican by conducting an anti-Catholic policy. The Vatican had Msgr. Robinson, a British subject, an investigation that brought to light the faults of Strickland. The third legislature expired in 1930 and the new elections were called,

The elections were postponed indefinitely; on June 26, 1930, the 1921 constitution was suspended. A royal commission of inquiry went to Malta in 1931 and delivered its observations in a report (Malta Royal Commission 1931, Report), astonishing for the content and for the adverse conclusions to the use of the Italian language all the more unjust and out of place since the conflict that had caused the Maltese crisis was of a political-religious nature. Among other things, the commissioners proposed to modify the 1921 constitution in the sense of making the use of Maltese and English compulsory in criminal court proceedings, totally eliminating the teaching of Italian from elementary schools, leaving it in secondary schools and in universities. These innovations that the commissioners proposed as a recommendation (with certain caution and with the reservation of one of the three commissioners) and conditioning them to the desire of the Maltese people, were certainly included in the Patent Letters of April 25, 1932, amending the constitution of Malta and promulgated on the following 2 May with a governorial proclamation, despite open declarations to the contrary by the Maltese population gathered in rallies and the protests of the Maltese universities, the press association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Lawyers, raising also in Italy a wave of indignation that was echoed in the speeches of May 7 in the Chamber of Deputies. Elections called and the condemnation of the bishops revoked, following Strickland’s retraction, the nationalists of Malta won a landslide victory (11-13 June 1932). The new ministry chaired by Ugo Mifsud, with Enrico Mizzi in the department of commerce and post office industry and interim of Public Education, its administration began on 21 June; in July he sent a ministerial commission to London, which did not receive the request to withdraw the amendments to the 1921 constitution. The ministry then tried to resolve the linguistic question by proposing optional Italian courses for elementary schools; but the imperial government opposed its veto, categorically prohibiting the teaching of Italian, even on an optional basis and after school hours, in elementary schools and the inclusion of any sum for this purpose in the budget. The Legislative Assembly on June 28 and the Senate on June 30, 1933, and again both chambers on July 25 and 27, 1933, voted a declaration to be delivered to the imperial government, in which the protests against the impairment of the constitution were renewed and the policy of the ministry for the defense of the Italian language was approved. The imperial government not only did not withdraw the previous provisions limiting the political freedoms of the Maltese, but authorized new restrictions which culminated in the transfer of the leadership of the police to the governor. At the same time (September 20) the governor issued an ordinance with which the activity of foreigners (who are almost all Italians) was subjected to strict control. At the end of October, the governor ordered the ministers to accept a series of taxes which implied a further renunciation of constitutional rights and in particular of the Italian language and culture. Upon their refusal, the governor dismissed them on November 2 (1933), directly assuming all the administration. The constitution was suspended. Malta has once again lacked a responsible government.

Malta History - the Early 20th Century