Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 8(1981)2(161)
[p.161] Reviews 1981
JOSEPH MICALLEF, When Malta Stood Alone, Intel-print, Malta, 1981, pp. 190 + illus.
In the preface to this book, the author modestly states "that there is a lot of research still to be done before the full story of life in Malta during the World War II is finally written. When Malta Stood Alone is only another contribution towards the compilation of the history of the Maltese during the fateful years 1940-3." In substance, what Fr. Micallef says is true but I beg to differ on the point regarding this book being "only another contribution". In my opinion, it is more than that for it really highlights, explores into and graphically describes what the people of Malta went through during those years.
Fr. Micallef tries to avoid repeating what has been published in book form on the subject and concentrates on presenting the reader with a social study of the Maltese people during the war years. To achieve this end, he had recourse to direct sources which consisted mainly of eye-witnesses' accounts, official reports and day-to-day records of the war which had been rescued from probable oblivion by Mr Michael Ellul. Head of the Antiquities Section of the Public Works Department when Fr. Micallef was researching. I can hardly imagine a better source for such a work.
The result is a well-written social account giving innumerable details and experiences without resorting to any type of fiction. To illustrate his points, Fr. Micallef at times quotes heavily from the source material mentioned and it is a great pity that some form of chapter and verse references could not be given. Indeed, it is very difficult to find faults in the book except perhaps a few clumsy expressions and the need of better proof-reading at times. However, an index in a book of this kind is a must and its inclusion would have considerably enhanced its status.
Even so, I feel that, through this work, Fr. Micallef has enhanced his well-deserved reputation of being of one of Malta's foremost social historians whose work should be read by all students of Maltese history.
Joseph F. Grima