Saturday, October 21, 2006

History of Malta

History of Malta. This short essay is a history of the European nation of Malta which may be most famous for the long rule of the Knights of St. John.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Republic of Malta , Maltese Malta , or Repubblika Ta' Malta country located in the central Mediterranean Sea. It is a small archipelago but a strategically important group of islands. Throughout a long and turbulent history, the archipelago has played a vital role in the struggles of a succession of powers for domination of the Mediterranean and in the interplay between emerging Europe and the older cultures of Africa and the Middle East. As a result, Maltese society was molded by centuries of foreign rule, with influences ranging from Arab to Norman to English."

From the site:

Malta was an important cultic center for earth-mother worship in the 4th millennium B.C. Recent archeological work shows a developed religious center there long before those of Sumer and Egypt. Malta's written history began well before the Christian era. Originally the Phoenicians, and later the Carthaginians, established ports and trading settlements on the island. During the second Punic War (218 B.C.), Malta became part of the Roman Empire. During Roman rule, in A.D. 60, Saint Paul was shipwrecked on Malta at a place now called St. Paul's Bay.

In 533 A.D. Malta became part of the Byzantine Empire and in 870 came under Arab control. Arab occupation and rule left a strong imprint on Maltese life, customs, and language. The Arabs were driven out in 1090 by a band of Norman adventurers under Count Roger of Normandy, who had established a kingdom in southern Italy and Sicily. Malta thus became an appendage of Sicily for 440 years. During this period, Malta was sold and resold to various feudal lords and barons and was dominated successively by the rulers of Swabia, Aquitaine, Aragon, Castile, and Spain.

In 1522 Suleiman II drove the Knights out of Rhodes. They dispersed to their commanderies in Europe and after repeated requests for territory to Charles V, in 1530 the Knights were given sovereignty of Malta under the suzerainty of the Kings of Sicily. In 1523, a key date in Maltese history, the islands were ceded by Charles V of Spain to the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. For the next 275 years, these famous "Knights of Malta" made the island their domain. They built towns, palaces, churches, gardens, and fortifications and embellished the island with numerous works of art and enhanced cultural heritage. In 1565 Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Malta. After several months the strength of the Knights and the Maltese population prevailed and the Turks were defeated. Over the years, the power of the Knights declined, however, and their rule of Malta ended with their peaceful surrender to Napoleon in 1798.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. I was very pleased to discover this new website which apparently was just launched on 9 October 2006. It currently contains more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images of both publications and handwritten manuscripts. There is also a Darwin bibliography and a large manuscript catalogue.

Some of the included works -

Journal of Researches - This is from the 1839 voyage on the Beagle.

The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle - This is from 1838-43.

Origin of Species - The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of this classic work.

This site notes, "There is much still to come. The site currently contains about 50% of the materials that will be provided by 2009. New material is added almost daily. Forthcoming materials include more editions and translations, images of the majority of the Darwin Archive at Cambridge University Library, more editorial introductions and notes and transcriptions of Darwin manuscripts, and technical facilities for printing and larger images. "

This is a nicely done and valuable history resource which gives access to a wealth of primary source material. My thanks to the site creators for this effort. I hope it inspires similar projects with other primary sources which may be out there waiting to find life online.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Three New Books on Roman History

I was very excited when I came back home from the university today. Three books from two book clubs had arrived in the mail. All deal with Roman history. The World History Blog posts about all kinds of history but I realize I tend to keep coming back to Rome. My readings habits certainly have an impact on this.

The books are:

Barbarians by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira - This book attempts to look at Rome from the perspective of the so called barbarians. It also is a companion to a new BBC series by the same title. Just from reading the book jacket language, I can tell I am going to have some responses to this book. Maybe the Romans adopted cultural and technological advances from other cultures, but did not these cultures also benefit from other cultures too? Who can say who originated anything? What counts is how effectively and how long an idea was used. I look forward to reading and commenting on this book.

Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutonburg Forest by Adrian Murdoch - August is reported to have yelled, "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!" This translates into "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!" Rome suffered many defeats but this one slaughtered three Roman legions and set back Roman expansion into Germania. I eagerly anticipate Murdoch's account.

Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy - OK, I have read probably a dozen good Caesar biographies in my life and a handful of bad or mediocre ones. Here is a new one. What does Goldsworthy add to Caesar biography?

As usual, I have a lot going on now. However, I hope to get all three of these read and make some reviewing comments on this blog in the next six months. I have no doubt regardless of my reactions to the writing that I will enjoy all three books.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One Day in History - History Matters

One Day in History - History Matters. If you live in the United Kingdom, or are a UK citizen abroad, today is an important day. You can participate in one of the largest mass blogging efforts to date by submitting your diary of the day of October 17th, 2006.

The site notes, "We know that history is something many people feel strongly about. But in the rush of our daily lives it's all too easy to take it for granted. And when it comes to the order of public priorities history is often sidelined. We urge you to join the campaign and show your support. Collectively the events taking place and opinions expressed will demonstrate the importance of history and heritage to the nation and become a unique record of our time."

Submissions can consist of everyday happenings as well as anything out-of-the-ordinary that occurs on the day. Submissions should be between 100 and 650 words. Contributions to the project be accepted until October 31st, 2006.

What will happen to the content? It will be stored by the British Library as a historical record of national life that future generations and historians can access. This is a great idea and I hope the project gets a lot of public support. Can we do this in the United States next?


This is not the History Matters site. I am only reporting on it. Please go to if you wish to participate or learn about the project.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hydraulic Engineering in Prehistoric Mexico

Hydraulic Engineering in Prehistoric Mexico. This article appeared in a recent issue of Scientific America. It is by S. Christopher Caran and James A. Neely. The full-text of the article is not available for free but digital access can be purchased via this link.

The article deals with ancient technology in North America. Three thousand years ago precursors of the Aztecs built the first large-scale water management systems in the New World. In Southern Mexico, farmers faced water shortages six months out of every year. To overcome this problem, the farmers developed ways to bring water to their crops. This included dams, wells, canals, aqueducts, and terraced wells.

Two of the more noted systems included a network of canals in the Tehuacán Valley and terraced gardens in the Valley of Oaxaca. This is just another example of how smart and resourceful ancient people could be. If they hadn't been so smart, we might not be here now.

From the site:

The prehistoric farmers of southern Mexico must have longed for a miracle. A tropical climate made their fertile valleys nearly ideal for planting, despite elevations approaching 2,000 meters, and heavy rains ensured bountiful crops during the six-month monsoon season. Under such favorable conditions, this region became the cradle of New World agriculture and the birthplace of corn. Yet these early agriculturalists faced one crucial limitation: during half the year, the weather was too dry for farming. With a year-round water supply, their hand-tilled fields might yield two or even three harvests annually. But how could the farmers get more water?

Their solution was not a miracle but a marvel of human ingenuity: large-scale engineering projects designed to store and transport water. From modest origins that left few traces, construction gradually progressed to a monumental scale. The Purrón Dam, for example, which was built in the Tehuacán Valley starting around 750 B.C., measured 400 meters long, 100 meters wide and nearly 25 meters high. Workers transported by hand, a few kilograms at a time, some 2.64 million cubic meters of earth. This dam probably remained the largest water retention structure in the Americas until the 18th century. Nearby, ancient engineers built thousands of kilometers of canals and aqueducts that predated the arrival of Europeans in Mexico by two millennia. They diverted water from springs and streams, conveying it across drainage divides, around canyons and down steep slopes. Other resourceful inventions collected rainwater from buildings and plazas.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

History Carnival XLI

History Carnival XLI. The newest History Carnival is up at ClioWeb. Jeremy Boggs, a web developer and history PhD student at George Mason University, has done an excellent job. Thanks Jeremy.

The next History Carnival will be hosted by Sergey Romanov at Holocaust Controversies. Send nomination to sergeyhc[at] or use the carnival form.