At the end of the 18th century, Malta was a feudal anachronism ruled by the Order of St John, the Knights Hospitaller. Their moment of glory, repulsing the siege of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1565), was long past. In 1775 an edict banning hare-hunting provoked a brief rebellion led by Catholic priests; taxes were high, corn expensive, the Hospitallers aloof. So when, in 1798, Napoleon breezed in, and in typically whirlwind fashion abolished slavery, introduced public education and created municipal government (all in six days), he was warmly received. But after he moved on, the French administration began looting the island’s wealth to subsidize its massive war effort. The Maltese rebelled, besieging the French garrison in Valletta, and appealing to the British for support. Horatio Nelson obliged, accepting the garrison’s surrender (1800). Malta voluntarily became a Britsih protectorate, remaining so until indepenedence (1964).
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