Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : A Journal of Maltese History. 7(1979)4(363-371)

[p.363] Tarxien in the XVIII Century: A Statistical Portrait

Karm Sant and Mario Vassallo

            Despite its relevance for a thorough understanding of the socio-cultural processes that eventually led to the creation of the Maltese nation-state, the gradual development of the various settlements on the island is still unmapped. The first ‘national’ census of the population was taken in 1842, and as such, comparative social and demographic statistics are still unavailable for Malta. A wealth of primary sources is however dispersed in numerous ecclesiastical and civil archives, ready for analysis. This paper is an attempt to start the construction of the mosaic that will eventually emerge, and limits itself to Tarxien, for the period 1699-1769.

            Tarxien today has a total population of 6,776 (3,360 males and 3,416 females) and geographically is often confused as an extension of Paola, which now has a population of nearly twelve thousand. During the period under consideration the situation was the exact opposite. Tarxien had been founded as a parish on 29 May 1592, when it was separated from Bir Miftuh, whilst Paola, popularly known from its very foundation as Rahal il-Gdid or Casal Nuovo, was founded by Grand Master Antoine De Paul in 1662 and was erected a parish on 26 October 1909. Tarxien was then already an established community, and the development of Paola, because of the unhygienic swamps and marshes at the Marsa, was bound to be sluggish. The Paola community in fact began to grow substantially only after the draining of these marshes and the construction of the New Port, Porto Nuovo, around the middle of the 19th century. Table 1 shows that the population of Tarxien and Paola, taken together or independently was by and large a relatively stable one. As evident from Table 2

Table 2: % Rate of increase in maltese Population
1842
1851
1861
1871
1881
1891
1901

7.86
8.55
5.76
5.68
10.18
11.94
1911
1921
1931
1948
1957
1967
14.52
0.33
13.83
12.64
4.26
-1.19

            the mean % increase of the Maltese population since censuses were taken (1842) substantially supersede those registered a century or so earlier for Tarxien and Paola as given in Table 1.

            [p.364] Table 3 gives a break-down of the population during the period under study. This table is to be analysed jointly with Table 4. Some people did manage to survive and live long, but the very high death rate clearly reflected the poor medical resources then prevalent. Depopulation was not rampant simply because of the very high natality rates typical of the era. In turn, Tables 5, 6, and 7 are to be taken together. Clearly the death rate for males who had to face the difficult working conditions of the time resulted in a disproportionate number of widows to widowers, even if the figures as they stand might in fact be hiding a possible high incidence of serial marriages, data on which is at present unavailable. There would certainly have been more pressure on males to remarry especially if left with young children than would have been possible for a widow who finds herself in a similar situation. The relative size of the widow/widower population, especially at a time when social services were still unknown, is however still very striking. Table 6 gives an indication of family size in Tarxien. It must however be remembered that the figures refer to surviving members – a significant factor at a time when neo-natal mortality was rampant.

            Table 7 provides data on marriages. There existed a tendency for early marriage to be avoided, even if this applied then, as of now, primarily to males.

            Table 8 and 9 can be used as simple indicators of religious life in Tarxien. At the time the Church was in practice the only indigenous institution which required a differential level of education and which conferred a differential status to individuals within its ranks. Even so the percentage of clergymen, in minor or major orders, was not exorbitantly high. Surprisingly even the number of female members of Third Orders was found to be low. Further reasearch might unearth some interesting reasons why this should have been so in a closed society in which the Church alone conferred status and authority.

            Table 9 is indicative of the religious homegeneity of Tarxien at the time. The most significant figures are those for the annual reception of Holy Communion which was obligatory for persons over the age of reason. Religious ritual and social bondage were so closely interchangeable that all such persons (see Table 1) received communion, and as such satisfied fully, at least externally, the church’s requirements for continued membership. Figures for Confession need be far less reliable became of the nature of the sacrament. Baptism, Marriage, and Confirmation on the other hand present themselves as the occasion for both social and religious solemnization of the more important stages in the individual’s life cycle – occasions which necessarily had to be legitimated by religious ritual if the individual did not want to risk social, and not merely religious, sanctions.

            [p.365] Table 1: Population Growth in Tarxien & Pawla, 1699-1769

Number of Persons in:- Population in Mean Growth in
Year Tarxien & Pawla Tarxien Pawla Tarxien & Pawla
1699
696
615
81
1705
799
720
79
2.47
1710
949
693
56
3.75
1715
891
837
54
-6.11
1719
875
809
66
-0.30
1725
871
825
46
-0.09
1730
926
882
44
1.26
1733
793
750
43
1.80
1741
909
851
58
3.60
1745
885
851
34
-0.53
1750
915
862
53
0.68
1755
891
857
53
-0.52
1760
939
1.08
1765
834
-2.80
1769
796
781
15

            Unless otherwise stated information is gathered from the Liber Status Animarum 1699-1770 Tarxien) pre­served in the Tarxien Parish Archives. Totals here include also Paola.

            [p.366]Table 3: Sex and Ages Structure of the population of Tarxien & Pawla, 1699-1769

Year
Persons aged
Males aged
Females aged
Maximum
0-13 yrs
14-64 yrs
65+70 yrs
0-13 yrs
14-64 yrs
65+70 yrs
0-13 yrs
14-64 yrs
65+70 yrs
Age
1699
212
470
20
109
228
10
103
242
10
85
1705

259

524
16
112
248
  8
147
276
  8
85
1710

263

473
13
117
227
  9
146
246
  4
76
1715

267

601
23
128
257
  7
139
344
16
80
1719

295

563
17
150
274
  8
145
289
  9
86
1725

231

633
15
135
277
  7
  96
356
  8
90
1730

302

607
17
165
293
  7
137
314
  5
82
1733

238

536
19
107
241
14
131
285
10
90
1741

307

562
40
181
253
22
126
309
18
91
1745

273

579
33
129
254
17
144
325
16
86
1750

260

628
27
132
298
13
128
330
14
88
1755

222

651
18
128
296
  7
  94
355
11
85
1760

218

702
19
124
282
  7
  94
420
12
85
1765

222

587
25
119
280
11
103
307
14
89
1769

190

582
24
  99
264
11
  91
318
13
96

           

[p.367] Table 4: Vital events in Tarxien & Paola, 1699-1769

Births1
Deaths2
Infant Deaths
Marriages
Year
no.
rate per 1,000 pop.
no.
rate per 1,000 pop.
no.
rate per 1,000 pop.
no.
rate per 1,000 pop.
1699
43
61.78
14
20.11
9
12.93
9
12.93
1705
41
51.31
26
32.54
14
17.52
7
8.76
1710
31
32.67
16
16.86
7
7.38
1715
29
32.55
22
24.69
13
14.59
1719
33
37.71
37
42.29
31
35.43
1725
43
49.37
27
31.00
22
25.26
1730
41
44.28
1733
32
40.35
37
44.66
25
31.53
1741
36
39.60
37
40.70
25
27.50
1745
36
40.68
25
28.25
20
22.60
1750
40
43.72
23
25.14
10
10.93
1755
39
43.77
26
29.18
14
15.71
1760
34
36.21
19
20.23
5
5.32
1765
26
31.18
24
28.78
10
11.90
1769
32
40.20
24
30.15
5
6.28

1.            Liber Baptizorum for this period. It is presumed here that all or nearly all newly-born were baptized a short time after their birth.
2.            Liber Defunctorum. Only those who died and were buried in the Parish are recorded.

[p.368] Table 5: Widower/widowhood in Tarxien& Paola, 1699-1769

Year
No. of Widowers
No. of Widows
1699
  7
  7
1705
  5
31
1710
  7
33
1715
10
37
1719
  5
40
1725
  9
39
1730
  8
47
1733
15
42
1741
  8
52
1745
  8
57
1750
  7
50
1755
  7
48
1760
  8
52
1765
  6
42
1769
  5
46

 

Table 6: Households in Tarxien & Paola, 1699-1769

Number of Households1
Average no. of persons per household
Year
total
with 1-5 persons
with 6 or more persons
1699
189
155
34
3.7
1705
202
151
51
4.9
1710
203
164
39
3.7
1715
235
193
42
3.8
1719
240
190
50
3.6
1725
251
214
37
3.4
1730
250
214
36
3.7
1733
234
181
53
3.4
1741
226
175
51
4.0
1745
238
199
39
3.7
1750
238
202
36
3.8
1755
264
234
30
3.3
1760
259
224
35
3.6
1765
242
214
26
3.4
1769
218
198
20
3.6

1.            Household means one person or a group of persons living together in the same dwelling.

[p.369] Table 7: Families classified by the ages of the Spouses, Tarxien & Paola, 1699-1769

Number of husbands aged
Number of wives aged
No of Couples with a difference in age of:
Number of wives older than husband by:
Year
Number of Families
under 20
21 or more
under 20
21 or more
5 or less
6 or more
5 years or less
6 years or more
1699
60
1
  59
0
  60
  37
23
21
6
1705
151
1
150
3
148
  96
55
1710
141
3
138
5
136
  91
50
1715
153
0
153
1
152
101
52
1719
173
1
172
5
168
104
69
1725
182
4
178
5
177
112
70
1730
180
1
179
2
178
101
79
1733
151
0
151
0
151
  92
59
1741
152
0
152
1
151
102
50
1745
158
0
158
4
154
101
57
1750
160
2
158
6
154
112
48
1755
124
0
124
8
116
  72
52
1760
170
1
169
2
168
110
60
1765
173
0
173
7
166
109
64
1769
163
1
162
6
157
105
58

1.            Family means a married couple, with or without children, living together.
2.            In case of widows this is indicated directly; in case of widowers, it is drawn from the fact that their children are still with them. This does not exclude the possibility of men living by themselves or with others; in these cases one cannot tell whether they be widowers or bachelors.

[p.370] Table 8: Ecclesiastics in Tarxien & Paola, 1699-1769

Year
Major Orders
Minor Orders
Married Clerics
Number
Total % of Population
Female Tortiaries
 
1699
10
3
1
13
1.4
1705
12
6
1
18
1.5
1710
1715
  8
1
0
  9
  .9
1719
12
5
1
17
1.4
13
1725
10
6
2
16
1.1
1730
11
7
2
18
1.2
  8
1733
1741
14
4
3
18
1.5
15
1745
16
2
2
18
1.8
  7
1750
17
5
2
22
1.8
14
1755
14
4
18
1.5
  9
1760
14
8
2
22
1.5
  7
1765
18
2
0
20
2.1
  6
1769
18
0
0
18
2.2
  7

1.            This includes also married clerics.
2.            This proportion is based on number of persons in Major Orders. In 1699 there were one priest for 69 persons, i.e. 1.4%.
3.            Orders mentioned: Carmelites, Capuchins and Dominicans.

[p.371] Table 9: Administration of the sacraments in Tarxien & Paola, 1699-1769.

Number of persons receiving the sacraments of:-
Year
baptism1
communion2
confession
marrriage3
confirmation
1699
43
538
  9
  95
1705
41
524
  58
  7
182
1710
31
503
  27
  7
122
1715
29
576
  38
  9
141
1719
33
618
  7
114
1725
43
  64
    5
12
162
1730
41
670
  7
  92
1733
32
  7
102
1741
36
  5
195
1745
36
598
  96
10
1750
40
623
103
  9
1755
39
621
  60
  7
1760
34
562
  48
  5
1765
26
541
  67
10
1769
32
529
  31
  5

1.            Liber Baptizatorum.
2.            Liber Status Animarum: confessions start earlier than Communion.
3.            Liber Matrimoniorum.