Copyright The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 1(1952)1(54)

JAIME SALVA: La Orden de Malta y las Acciones Navales Espanolas contra Turcos y Berberiscos en los Siglos XVI y XVII. Madrid, Instituto Historico de Marina, 1944, pp. 447.

This richly documented book is of particular interest to the student of naval history, and recounts in considerable detail the naval exploits of the Order mentioned by Ettore Rossi on pages 32-95 of his Storia della Marina dellOrdine di S. Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi a di Malta (Rome, 1926). But it is something more than a mere narrative of events and sea fights. The writer sets out to illustrate a theory which presents various points worthy of deeper study.

Peculiar circumstances during the first quarter of the 16th Century brought about a policy of close collaboration between the forces of Spain and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem - a collaboration lasting more than a century during which no major action against the Infidels took place in which the Knights did not take part either at sea or on land. At no other period of its history did the maritime spirit of the Order, first witnessed in Rhodes, shine in such splendour as during the first century of its rule in Malta. The Coron expedition in 1532, the glorious conquest of Tunis and the Goletta in 1535, the campaigns in the Levant under Doria in 1537-8, the ill-fated expedition against Algiers in 1541, the two expeditions to Penon de Velez de la Gomera in 1563 and 1564, the immortal feats of the Knights at Lepanto, the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the great sea fights with the Turkish sea wolves of the Mediterranean these and many others make up the culminating point in the glorious history of the Order.

Now this epoch coincides with the period of the greatest Spanish influence on the Order; the grandeur of the Knights runs parallel with that of the Spanish Empire, and together with Spain the Order declines and gradually fades into obscurity. The period during which Spanish Grand Masters predominated corresponds to the 17th century, when the Spanish nation started on its decline, and goes on into the second half of the century which saw the progressive political decadence of Spain and at the same time the emergence of France and the establishment of its predominance. Around this thesis the carefully constructed fabric of the work is woven with masterly skill. The text proper takes up 326 pages, leaving 121 pages made up of appendices providing rich source material for the historian of the period. Of the 55 documents reproduced in this section .Docs. 5 to 9 have a direct bearing on the Siege of Malta, while others refer to correspondence between the Grand Masters and the Spanish kings, to sea fights won against the Infidels, or to Turkish raids on Malta and Gozo.

An index of names concludes this welcome addition to the bibliography on the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

J.C.