History of Malta

Malta has a long history and was first inhabited in around 5900 BC. The first inhabitants were farmers, and their agricultural methods degraded the soil until the islands became uninhabitable. The islands were repopulated in around 3850 BC by a civilization which at its peak built the Megalithic Temples, which today are among the oldest surviving buildings in the world. Their civilization collapsed in around 2350 BC, but the islands were repopulated by Bronze Age warriors soon afterwards.

Malta's prehistory ends in around 700 BC, when the islands were colonized by the Phoenicians. They ruled the islands until they fell to the Roman Republic in 218 BC. The Romans were followed by the Byzantines in the 6th century AD, who were expelled by Aghlabids following a siege in 870 AD. Malta may have been sparsely populated for a few centuries until being repopulated by Arabs in the 11th century. The islands were conquered by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in 1091, and a gradual Christianization of the islands followed. At this point, the islands were dominated by successive feudal rulers including the Swabians, the Aragonese and eventually the Spanish.

The islands were given to the Order of St. John in 1530, who ruled them as a vassal state of Sicily. In 1565, the Ottoman Empire attempted to take the islands in the Great Siege of Malta, but the invasion was repelled. The Order continued to rule Malta for over two centuries, and this period was characterized by a flourishing of the arts and architecture and an overall improvement in society. The Order was expelled after the French First Republic invaded the islands in 1798, marking the beginning of the French occupation of Malta.

After a few months of French rule, the Maltese rebelled and the French were expelled in 1800 with British, Neapolitan and Portuguese assistance. Malta subsequently became a British protectorate, becoming a de facto colony in 1813. This was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris a year later. The islands became an important naval base for the British, serving as the headquarters of the Mediterranean Fleet. Due to this, Malta was attacked by the Axis powers during World War II, and in 1942 the island was awarded the George Cross, which today appears on Malta's flag and coat of arms. The Crown Colony of Malta was self-governing from 1921–33, 1947–58 and 1962–64.

Malta became independent as a Commonwealth realm known as the State of Malta in 1964, and it became a republic in 1974. Since 2004, the country has been a member state of the European Union.

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