Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 6(1974)3(336-337)

ANDREW P. VELLA. Storja ta' Malta, Vol. I, St. Paul's Press, Malta, 1974, pp. 213.

This excellent book by Prof. A. P. Vella, Head of the Department of History at our University, provides the reader with a comprehensive panorama of Maltese history from the earliest times to 1565. It is a subject in which the author has a vast experience and to which he has already made valuable contributions. This volume is to be followed by two others; one dealing with events from 1565 to the French occupation and the other covering the British period up to the gaining of indepen­dence in 1964.

A notable feature of this work is the extensive coverage which the author devotes to the Arab occupation. He does not hesitate to debunk several undocumented traditions associated with this period. The reader will value the author's broad approach drawing as he does upon the political vicissitudes of neighbouring Sicily and their influence on events in our Island.

[p.337] The book is provided with numerous useful notes and references which make possible a more detailed study of those aspects of Maltese history of special interest to the reader.

The choice of the Maltese language for such a detailed work may not appeal to everyone. Your reviewer thinks that the text would have flowed more easily, in certain parts, in the English language. Besides, the book would have reached a wider readership, not only in Malta, but also abroad.

It is elegantly produced in an attractive binding and cover with a clearly printed type on very good quality paper.

There are neatly reproduced illustrations in black and white. Had their source and the location of the objects shown been given, the reader would have been stimulated to delve into the other works for more illustrations and to visit the places where the objects are preserved. In this manner a wider pictorial view of our past would have been opened especially to the younger generation for whom the book may be the first excursion into our history.                                   ,

As a considerable portion of the sources quoted in the references consists of published works, one may gain the impression that the avail­able literature on our history is all in print and that no manuscript material remains to be tapped. But is it so? One wonders whether a systematic examination of the manuscript holdings of the Cathedral Museum at Mdina and of the various Univ. volumes (apart from No. 11) at the Public Library may not reveal new facts and cast fresh light on some obscure facets of our past. I believe that the final word about our medieval period cannot be written until an exhaustive search for docu­ments bearing on Maltese affairs has been carried out in the State Archives of Sicily. I am the first to admit that this task can only be undertaken by scholars who are on the spot and who are familiar with the contents of their archives. I wish to suggest to our Minister of Education to ask the help of his counterpart in Italy in this respect in the hope of obtaining, at least, a list of documents preserved in Sicilian State Archives that have some relation to our Island. Such a step would indicate what type of primary sources exists in Sicily and where these can be consulted. This information would constitute an indispensable tool not only in the hands of Maltese but also of foreign scholars inte­rested in the Middle Ages. Perhaps the Istituto Italiano di Cultura at Malta may be in a position to join in this quest and thus render an invaluable service to Maltese-Sicilian culture.

Paul Cassar