Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 6(1975)4(455-456)

ENRICO MAZZARESE FARDELLA: I Feudi Comitali di Sicilia dai Normanni agli Aragonesi (= Università di Palermo: Pubblicazioni a cura [p.456] della Facoltà di Giurisprudenza, 36), Milano, Dott. A. Giuffrè, 1974. Pp. 134; Lire 2,200.

The surviving documents do not permit any close analysis of social and economic developments on Malta and Gozo before about 1400, but there is sufficient material for an outline of their ‘exterior,’ political history. Fundamental to this story should be a detailed clarification, never as yet attempted, of the way in which ‘feudal’ institutions operated in Malta. Such an investigation depends on an understanding of the functioning of the feudum in Sicily, a special case of this being the process by which the Maltese islands came to be granted out as a County. Mazzarese Fardella’s extended essay on the feudo comitale or feudo maggiore adds very little to the known facts concerning the County of Malta, but it greatly enlarges the historian’s capacity to interpret those facts. An interpretation of the Maltese feudum should now be conducted in detail on the basis of the best complete texts available; some of the documents, in fact, still await publication from the fourteenth-century registers at Palermo.

The Sicilian County, one of the first of which to appear was that of Malta in about 1193, was not a characteristically Norman innovation but emerged only as the Norman dynasty was collapsing. The case of Malta, which was held for a while by Genoese Counts, was a special one in that its Counts were also the royal Admiral; the most famous were Frederick II’s Admiral, Henry ‘Pescatore,’ and the Aragonese Admiral, Ruggiero Lauria. A will of 1299 suggests that the title may have passed from a Genoese descendant of Henry named Andreolo de Mari through his nephew’s daughter Luchina to her husband, Guglielmo Raimondo de Moncada. In 1320 the County returned to the Crown, and passed to a series of royal cadets and Sicilian barons who exploited the Maltese islands until in 1397 Malta and Gozo were reincorporated in perpetuity into the royal demanium, never again being granted out in fief until the coming of the Knights Hospitallers in 1530. This story can be followed in some detail in A. Luttrell, “Approaches to Medieval Malta,” and D. Abulafia, “Henry Count of Malta and his Mediterranean Activities: 1203-1230,” both in Medieval Malta: Studies on Malta before the Knights, ed. A. Luttrell (London, 1975), and in A. Luttrell, “The House of Aragon and Malta: 1282-1412,” Journal of the Faculty of Arts: Royal University of Malta, iv no. 2 (1970); the will of 1299 is in H. Bresc, “Malta dopo il Vespro Siciliano,” Melita Historica, vi no. 3 (1974). None of these works was known to Mazzarese Fardella.

Anthony Luttrell