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MHS History Week: The Paths to Independence: Transitions & Transformations (1914-1964)

Malta Historical Society History Week 2023

Venue: Soc. Fil. Naz. La Valette, Valletta

 The Paths to Independence: Transitions & Transformations (1914-1964)

This event is kindly sponsored by the Alfred Mizzi Foundation

The Malta Historical Society is delighted to announce the theme “The Paths to Independence: Transitions & Transformations (1914-1964)” for History Week 2023.

The ebb and flow of events leading towards Malta’s nation-state status continue to provide opportunities to further enhance the narrative leading towards Malta’s momentous historical turning point in 1964.

From Enrico Mizzi’s anti-colonial stand until Giorgio Borg Olivier’s signature on Malta’s Independence document, the Maltese experienced several transitions and transformations. Beyond the emotional and partisan distortions, several vectors that came to shape Malta’s national identity were a product of this dynamic period.

Henry Frendo argues, ‘The British presence both restrained and assisted the slow crystallization of a national identity and of a consciousness of it.’ The theme “The Paths to Independence” offers an opportunity to uncover those dynamics that have shaped the island beyond its ‘saints and fireworks’. The process of state-making provided unprecedented opportunities towards Maltese nation- and identity-making. As Malta’s social nation came to life, the pajjiż [country] became a nazzjon-stat [nation-state]. What are those qualities that make Malta so unique from other Mediterranean islands? What developments, political but not only, were experienced in the build-up towards Malta’s unfettered Independence status? What transitions and transformations were experienced during this journey?



Day 1 (9 November) – 6.30pm


Joseph Pirotta –  Overcoming The Dependence Syndrome


Professor Joseph M. Pirotta obtained a Ph.D. in politics with his dissertation, The Attempt to Integrate Malta into the United Kingdom, 1955-1958. He set up and headed the Department of International Relations at the University of Malta. Professor Pirotta’s publications include: Fortress Colony: The Final Act 1945-1964 (four volumes); L-Istorja Kostituzzjonali u l-Isfond Storiku, 1800-2004 (two volumes); Nation, Pride and Dignity: Borg Olivier and the National Anthem; 1919: Consequences of Imperial Conceit; and, 28 April 1958: Mintoff and the National Interest.


Mark A. Sammut Sassi – Constitutional Law as History


Dr Mark A. Sammut Sassi has studied law and translation (LL.D., M.Jur., M.A) at the University of Malta, legal history and legal theory (LL.M.) at the University of London, historical sociology at the London School of Economics, and historical studies at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, and a member of the Soċjetà Storika ta’ Malta, the European Society for Comparative Legal History, the European Society for History of Law, and the Società italiana di storia del diritto. He has published several books on law, history, and politics.


Bernice Zarb – Human Rights and the Maltese Trial for Freedom: The role of international human rights and decolonisation in the Independence of Malta

 Bernice Zarb is currently a Manager at the Human Rights Directorate in the Ministry for Home Affairs, Security, Reforms and Equality. She obtained a first-class B.A. (Hons.) in European and Global History from the University of Malta. Bernice then read for a M.Phil in International History at Trinity College Dublin, for which she was awarded a distinction. Bernice is involved in the END-RACISM-MT project and was Project Officer and Secretary General at the voluntary student organisation JEF Malta. During that period, she was one of the founders of the Integrated Democratic Europe Simulation and she also participated in the World Model United Nations held in Madrid, Spain in 2019.



Day 2 (10 November) – 6.00pm


Charles Xuereb – Inveigled Collective Memory Generates Postcolonial Identity


Dr Charles Xuereb, a journalist and historiographer, lectures on collective memory and identity as well as postcol

onial studies. His published dissertation is titled France in the Maltese Collective Memory, Perceptions, Perspectives, Identities after Bonaparte in British Malta (MUP, 2014/2021, 3 editions). His most recent publication, Decolonising the Maltese Mind, in search of identity (Midsea Books, 2022) debates the effects of British colonialism in Malta, contending that Maltese society still harbours a colonial mentality.


Sandro Debono – Masterpieces of Absence: Shaping the building blocks of a Maltese Museological Framewor


Dr Sandro Debono PhD (Lond.) is a museum advisor and culture strategist working at the intersection of theory and practice. He is a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta, national representative at the European Museum Academy and mostly known for his lead on the MUŻA project, the Malta national community art museum, for which he developed the original concept now rethought and remodelled. His international commitments include advisory roles with various museums in Europe, the Balkans and the U.S.A.


Shanaia Bellizzi – Maltese Emigration from 1920 to 1964


Shanaia Bellizzi has a Bachelor’s degree with Honours in History with English. She is currently pursuing a Master in Teaching and Learning in History and Second and Foreign Language teaching and learning. Her research for this presentation is about Emigration from 1920 to 1964 and it is based on her dissertation for the Bachelor’s degree. Shanaia is interested in various aspects of history, but her preference is modern history. Additionally, it has been a lifelong aspiration to pursue a career in history teaching.



Svetlana Sivova Spiteri – The Legal Statute of Malta’s maritime trade with the Balkans at the beginning of the First World War (1914-1915)


Svetlana Sivova Spiteri was born in Bulgaria but found her second motherland in Malta. She encountered History as a professional option on the islands and became a Licensed Tour Guide. She is in her 4th year of undergraduate studies in History at “Konstantin Preslavsky” University of Shumen, Bulgaria. She is also a volunteer at the Archives and started her first steps in historical research. Her two publications related to the Protestant College in Malta and The Noble Family of Ventimiglia will soon be published.


Day 3 (11 November) – 9.30am


Giovanni Bonello – Self-Government 1921 and Artistic Creativity

Dr Giovanni Bonello has served as judge at the European Court of Human Rights for twelve years. He is a prolific author and historian who has won the National Book Prize. He was President of the Malta Historical Society, of the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board, of the University ethics and discipline board, of the Bank of Valletta Arts Committee, of the Notarial Archives Foundation besides being a member of the Fortunato and Enrico Mizzi Foundation and of the main board of MEPA and of the Bank of Valletta. He is a Companion of the National Order of Merit and Cavaliere della Repubblica of Italy. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Malta Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the special medal of the judiciary of Moldova and the Insignia of Merit by the Russian Federation.


Thomas Aquilina – Operation Husky: Malta’s Role in the Liberation of Europe


Thomas Aquilina has just completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History at the University of Malta. He is a keen reader of historical events and military campaigns. This year, the Department of History nominated Thomas and another student as joint winners of the Farsons Foundation Award for the best History dissertation. He is currently reading for a Master of Arts in Diplomatic Studies.


Marco Galea & Jonathan Grima – Reverberations of History: Malta’s National Theatre Project


Prof. Marco Galea is Head of Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Malta. His main area of specialisation is theatre in Malta in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and he is particularly interested in issues of language, identity, and representation. He has published articles and book chapters in this area and has edited several books. In recent years he has co-ordinated, on behalf of the School of Performing Arts at the University of Malta, the efforts to create a digital archive for the performing arts in Malta.


Based in Amsterdam and Malta, Jonathan Grima co-founded the rubberbodies collective in 2009.  With a Masters’ degree in Theatre Curation from DAS Theatre Amsterdam, Jonathan is reading for a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies at the University of Malta as the recipient of the SIPARJU scholarship from Teatru Malta. Specialising in archival practices, his work encompasses theatre performances, multimedia installations, essays, and archives, often exploring the politics of memory and cultural nuances. His notable project, Nassaba: Song of a Bird, delves into the practices of Maltese bird trappers.



Kathrina Farrugia-Kriel – Contretemps: Writing ballet histories of Princess Nathalie Poutiatine (1904-84) during the Self-Government abolition years in Malta (1933-47)


Dr Kathrina Farrugia-Kriel is a dance scholar, educator, and author. Her books include the monograph Princess Poutiatine and the Art of Ballet in Malta (FPM and Midsea Books, 2020), the seminal anthology The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet (with Jill Nunes Jensen, 2021) and the forthcoming The Oxford Handbook of Ballet Pedagogy (with Adesola Akinleye). She co-edited Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies (Network of Pointes, 2015), and her writing has been published in the South African Dance Journal, Treasures of Malta, the Sunday Times of Malta, and in the Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance (forthcoming). Over the last twenty years, Kathrina has taught at universities in South Africa, Malta and the UK.

MHS History Week: The Paths to Independence: Transitions & Transformations (1914-1964)

November 9, 2023 @ 18:30 — November 12, 2023 @ 13:00
6:30 pm — 1:00 pm (66h 30′)

MHS History Week: The Paths to Independence: Transitions & Transformations (1914-1964)