Colonialism vs Our Rights

 1815 - 1886

Although the Maltese had willingly placed themselves under British rule,  a section of the Maltese resented the fact that the Maltese had absolutely no say in the administration of their island home. In fact during the first 35 years of British Rule, the administration of the Island was the sole prerogative of the British Civil Commissioners and Governors.

In 1835, a Council of Government consisting of only nominated members was granted. However in 1849 through the initiative of Governor Sir Richard O'Ferrall, another Constitution was granted to the Maltese Islands. This Constitution made provision for a Council of Government consisting of 10 nominated members and eight elected members. The first elections took place in 1849, and among the elected members there was Dr Adrian Dingli, the representative of Gozo, who was subsequently nominated Crown Advocate in 1845 and Chief Justice in 1880. The 1849 Constitution remained in force till 1887.

During the administration of Sir Thomas Maitland (1813-1824) a reorganization of the Law Courts was carried out in 1815. Later, new Codes of Law were also promulgated and the liberty of the Press was granted in 1839.

After the Royal Commission of 1836 primary schools were opened in various towns and villages and through the initiative of Canon M P Pullicino (1815-1890), who was Director of Primary Schools, by 1880 there was a primary school in every town and village, although attendance was not compulsory.

The transport system also improved. The omnibus was introduced in 1856 and was followed by the railway in 1883. In 1882 the steam ferry service was introduced between Sliema and Valletta and three years later, in 1885, a regular form of transport was introduced between Malta and Gozo.

The British Government continued to strengthen the islands defences, and a number of forts and the "Victoria Lines" were erected. The importance of British Naval Power also led to the considerable development of the Naval dockyard with the construction of docks at Bormla Wharf and Ghajn Dwieli.

A number of important public works were also carried out such as the new commercial harbour at Marsa, a new Mental Hospital in Attard and the Royal Opera House in Valletta.

Key Dates - Early British Period (1814-1886)


1814  Treaty of Paris by which Malta becomes a British Crown Colony.

1815   Re-organisation of the Law Courts

1819   Abolition of Università (Local Government).

1828   Proclamation regulating State-Church relations.

1831   See of Malta independent of See of Palermo.

1834   Opening of Malta Government Savings Bank.

1835   First Council of Government

1836   Primary Schools opened.  By 1880 there was a Primary School in every town and village.

1839  Abolition of Press censorship and introduction of law of libel.

1849  Council of Government with elected members.

1854  Publication of “Storia di Malta” by Gio. Antonio Vassallo.

1869  Opening of Suez Canal

1881  Executive Council — an entirely official body.

1883  The Railway was introduced between Valletta and Mdina.  Railway closed in 1929.

1887  The Strickland-Mizzi Constitution.