Copyright The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 7(1979)4(379)

CARMELO TESTA, Maż-Żewġ Naħat tas-Swar: Żmien il-Franciżi f'Malta L-Ewwel Ktieb. Malta, Klabb Kotba Maltin, 1979. vi-215pp.

This new study, planned to encompass three volumes, attempts a rewriting of one of the most important periods of transition in Maltese history, 1798-1800. Volume I, the book under review, covers from September (or May?), with Napoleon writing to the Directors suggesting seizing Malta in order to secure control of the Mediterranean", to August 1798, when Nelson destroyed the French battle fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay. Within a week of Malta's capitulation, Napoleon completely restructured the civil administration of the island, "applying to politics that speed that distinguished his campaigns."

There can be no doubt that this work is the result of years of industrious research. Particularly commendable is the fact that Dr Testa claims to have concerned himself especially with source material, in many cases with unprinted documents from archives. The information content of the book is exceptionally high. When completed, Maż-Żewġ Naħat tas-Swar is bound to have a decisive and determining influence on subsequent writings on the period. This brings up the one possible objection to the work.

It is regretted that the author has not backed up his pleasant account with any supporting references to documentary evidence. The promised bibliography at the end of the third volume, desirable and helpful though it might be, would not satisfy the inquisitive mind of the historian interested in the all-embracing evaluation as much as in the validity (or otherwise) of verdicts reached, particularly when traditional value judgements are questioned and long- held 'prejudices' abolished.

Victor Mallia-Milanes