Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 8(1980)1(84-85)

[p.84] Reviews 1980

P. BARTOLO, X'Kien Ġara Sew: Fis-Sette Giugno 1919, Malta, Klabb Kotba Maltin, 1979, 232 pp., 16 pp. illus., £M1. 75.

Various publications on this subject have seen the light of day, the latest being Paul Bartolo's work. At last, we have a publication on the 7th June events which tries very hard to look at what actually and really happened without the use of rose-tinted glasses. This is done by the simple and, in my opinion, quite effective technique of reproducing relevant excerpts of the evidence tendered to the Commission of Enquiry — set up less than three months after — which heard the testimony of about 150 Maltese and English witnesses.

The book is divided logically into three parts. In the first part, Mr. Bartolo explains the situation prevalent in 1919 and thus prepares the setting for Part II which comprises a good three-fourths of the work. The crux of the subject lies here in the second part because it is here that evidence on the happenings of 7th to 10th June is presented to the reader, who is left to make up his own mind as to the veracity of the details being narrated and to the state of mind of the particular witness at the time. It is to the credit of the author that he does not lay any emphasis on any on a particular point of view,  be it Nationalist, Labourite, or Imperialist but tries his utmost to be impartial by allowing each point of view to present its own particular evidence though he does comment on
the Chairman's anglophobia. This care for objectivity is also evident in Mr. Bartolo's introductions to evidence. Mr. Bartolo also does his best not to be biased in Part III where he analyses what the Maltese gained as a result of the riots.

A very important part of the quoted testimony is that given by Dr. Enrico Mizzi who, in his evidence, showed quite clearly his sincerity, honesty and a refusal to compromise for convenience's sake. I hasten to add that his book is no adulation — partial or complete — of Dr. Mizzi and would like to point out that the qualities listed above have been attested to even by Mizzi's political opponents.

One point which seems to emerge from the evidence is that the police were not particularly effective in handling the situation or in trying to forestall some attacks which one expected were going to happened, the most glaring case being the attack on Colonel Francia's house. Nor does it seems that the police were very keen to remember faces — except of a very few — though whether this was  the result of discontentment within the force or the fact that the Maltese all live in a small area and 'know' each other too well is a moot point. The evidence also seems to indicate that the military was badly led and that the forces used were too small in number — on the first day's riots anyway; this could explain the soldiers' eagerness to fire into the crowds which so overwhelmingly out [p.85] numbered them.

On the debit side one must remark that Wenzu Dyer's surname should have been properly spelt and the mistake on the Addolorata Cemetery Monument - where it is mis-spelt Deyer - should not have been perpetrated in a printed work. Also, a comprehensive index at the end of the book would have further enhanced this work.

All things considered, however, I think that this book should find a place on every sincere Maltese citizen's bookshelf although there is no place for it in the homes of those who persist in looking at events only through 'political lenses'.

Joseph F. Grima