Years of Discontent

 1887 - 1920

In December 1887 a new Constitution was granted to the Maltese Islands replacing that of 1849. According to this Constitution there was to be a Council of Government consisting of 20 members, 14 of whom were to be elected members. Unfortunately this Constitution had only a short span of life. Difficulties arose due to the heated "language question", and on the 3rd June 1903 this Constitution was revoked and substituted by another one, similar to that of 1849.

At the turn of the century, the British Government undertook the construction of the breakwater in the Grand Harbour and two new docks in the dockyard. These projects generated considerable employment, to the extent that workmen were brought from abroad. However the termination of these projects and the subsequent rundown of British forces in the island brought about a grave economic crisis which brought the islands to the verge of bankruptcy.

In April 1913, the International Eucharistic Congress, presided by the Papal legate Cardinal Ferrata, was held in Malta. Five Cardinals and a number of foreign bishops and Catholics also participated in this Congress.

This joyful event was followed in August 1914 by the outbreak of the First World War during which Malta contributed its share as part of the British Empire in three ways, as a hospital base, a Naval base, and by the services rendered by the Maltese in the British Army and Navy. As a hospital base, Malta was considered to be "The Nurse of the Mediterranean", as thousands of wounded and sick Allied soldiers from Gallipoli and Salonika were brought to Malta. Considerable work was also carried out in the local naval dockyard, which employed about 10,000 men.

Following the end of the war in November 1918 there was a mood of discontent prevailing on the island due to various factors including the political situation, unemployment and the price of bread. In February 1919 a National Assembly was convened in Valletta under the presidency of Dr Filippo Sceberras to obtain better constitutional concessions. On the 7th June 1919 riots broke out as a result of the prevailing unrest, both economic and political, during which four Maltese were killed.

Key Dates - British Period (1887-1920)

1887  The Strickland-Mizzi Constitution.

1903  Council of Government - largely a return to the 1849 Constitution.

1912  Dun Karm, the National Poet, writes his first poem in Maltese

1914-18 World War I

1919  Sette Giugno Riots

1921 The Amery-Milner Constitution granting Self-Government. Opening of first Malta Parliament.