Saturday, 31 December 2016

Janus Roman God of beginnings and transitions, God of the New Year

In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus. His most apparent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January.
Though he was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions (Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Bifrons), in some places he was Janus Quadrifrons (the four-faced). The Romans associated Janus with the Etruscan deity Ani.
Janus was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.
Though he was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions (Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Bifrons), in some places he was Janus Quadrifrons (the four-faced). The Romans associated Janus with the Etruscan deity Ani.
Janus was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.
While the fundamental nature of Janus is debated, in most modern researchers view the set of the god's functions may be seen as being organized around a simple principle: that of presiding over all beginnings and transitions, whether abstract or concrete, sacred or profane. Interpretations concerning the god's fundamental nature either limit it to this general function or emphasize a concrete or particular aspect of it (identifying him with light the sun, the moon, time, movement, the year, doorways, bridges etc.) or see in the god a sort of cosmological principle, i. e. interpret him as a uranic deity.
Almost all these modern interpretations were originally formulated by the Romans themselves The function of 'god of beginnings' has been clearly expressed in numerous ancient sources, among them most notably perhaps Cicero, Ovid and Varro. As a god of motion he looks after passages, causes actions to start and presides over all beginnings, and since movement and change are bivalent, he has a double nature, symbolized in his two headed image.
He has under his concerns the stepping in and out of the door of homes, the ianua, which took its name from him, and not vice versa. Similarly his tutelage extends to the covered passages named iani and foremost to the gates of the city, including the cultic gate called the Argiletum, named Ianus Geminus or Porta Ianualis from which he protects Rome against the Sabines. He is also present at the Sororium Tigillum, where he guards the terminus of the ways into Rome from Latium. He has an altar, later a temple near the Porta Carmentalis, where the road leading to Veii ended, as well as being present on the Janiculum, a gateway from Rome out to Etruria.
The connecion of the notions of beginning (principium), movement, transition (eundo), and thence time has been clearly expressed by Cicero. In general, Janus is at the origin of time as the guardian of the gates of Heaven: Jupiter himself moves forth and back because of Janus's working.In one of his temples, probably that of Forum Holitorium, the hands of his statue were positioned to signify the number 355 (the number of days in a year), later 365, symbolically expressing his mastership over time. He presides over the concrete and abstract beginnings of the world, such as religion and the gods themselves, he too holds the access to Heaven and other gods: this is the reason why men must invoke him first, regardless of the god they want to pray or placate. He is the initiator of human life, of new historical ages, and financial enterprises: according to myth he was the first to mint coins and the as, first coin of the libral series, bears his effigy on one face.
Janus frequently symbolized change and transitions such as the progress of future to past, from one condition to another, from one vision to another, and young people's growth to adulthood. He was represented time, because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as at marriages, deaths and other beginnings. He represented the middle ground between barbarism and civilization, rural and urban, youth and adulthood. Having jurisdiction over beginnings Janus had an intrinsic association with omens and auspices.
Leonhard Schmitz suggests that he was likely the most important god in the Roman archaic pantheon. He was often invoked together with Iuppiter (Jupiter).According to Macrobius citing Nigidius Figulus and Cicero, Janus and Jana (Diana) are a pair of divinities, worshipped as Apollo or the sun and moon, whence Janus received sacrifices before all the others, because through him is apparent the way of access to the desired deity

Blog Readership hits 115,000

Thank you everybody for supporting the all to human Blog since its launch . There has now been over 115,000 hits since it began. This tile last year we had had reached a modest 10,000 hits. I was particularly pleased yesterday with the 1,000 plus hits for the betsi Cadwalldr article. Please continue supporting and commenting. its a year that will be like no other. We have Brexit, President Trump and the decision of the supreme Court on the role of Parliament in the process of leaving the EU.
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Friday, 30 December 2016

Betsi Cadwaladr..forgotten Welsh Nurse of the Crimean War

I become increasingly frustrated with how many people both ignore this Welsh woman and Nurse. Its often that the English state snuffs out the role of those who are not part of the ruling elite. betsi was working class, Welsh and did not particularly get on with the lady of the lamp. Before we start 2017 lets us be proud of the Welsh figures sadly forgotten today. Betsi is buried in Stoke Newington in London forgotten in a graveyard of the Imperial capital. Let us honour her and celebrate her life.
Everybody has heard about Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp. A woman of undoubted power and drive, she certainly deserves to be remembered as the founder of modern nursing.
Many will have heard about Mary Seacole, the black nurse who was turned down for inclusion in Nightingale's party because of issues like race, class and education - it didn't stop her, she went to the Crimea where she worked as tirelessly as Florence Nightingale to help Britain's wounded soldiers.
But only very few will have heard of Betsi Cadwaladr, the remarkable Welsh woman who also worked with Nightingale in the Crimea. Born at Bala on May 24 1789, she was one of 16 children, taking charge of the family and effectively bringing up the other children after her mother died.
When she grew up, Betsi (real name Elizabeth) was a traveller of note, working as a servant and as a companion for various people, ships captains and titled ladies among them. Her work took her around the world several times - and this in an age when most working class men, let alone working class women, never travelled more than a dozen miles from their front doors! Not officially, a nurse,
Betsi's various jobs in all parts of the world involved her in nursing duties and, in particular, convinced her of the need for cleanliness as an aid to recovery from disease and illness.
The Crimean War broke out in 1854 and, thanks to the regular despatches of journalists like William Russell, it quickly became apparent that the campaign was appallingly organised. One of the worst injustices was the total lack of care for wounded and dying soldiers.
Learning that Florence Nightingale had been commissioned to provide a cadre or squad of suitable nurses, Betsi Cadwaladr applied to join the group.
However, Nightingale had already left for Scutari and Betsi was forced to join one of the subsequent parties organised by Mrs Herbert. When she reached Scutari and met Nightingale it was clearly a clash of personalities. Apart from anything else Betsi was working class, through and through - Florence Nightingale came from a much more privileged background. Kept waiting for several weeks, Betsi fumed and demanded to be sent to the front:-
"I did not like the name Nightingale," she later commented in a book on her life. "When I first learn a name I know by my feelings whether I shall like the person who bears it."
Clearly, then, Betsi and Florence Nightingale disliked each other from the first and Nightingale eventually washed her hands of this argumentative and truculent Welsh woman who, despite all advice, made her way to the front lines where she cared for the wounded and injured soldiers.
She cooked, cleaned and nursed, working twenty hours a day and sleeping, when she found the time, on the floor with seven other nurses. Inevitably such conditions took their toll on a woman who was already over seventy years of age.
When Nightingale visited the battlefront and saw the amazing work that Betsi had done, she changed her mind about a woman who she had previously considered only to be an irritant. She begged Betsi to stay on - after a little rest - but Betsi knew her limitations and returned home
The author Jane Williams wrote a book about Betsi's life and adventures but Betsi did not live to enjoy the fruits of fame. Worn out by her exertions in the Crimea, she died on July 17 1870 and was, for many years, something of a forgotten heroine - even though she was one of a mere handful of men or women who ever dared challenge the redoubtable Florence Nightingale.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Political Reflections between the years..0f Fromm and Chomsky

Man represses the irrational passions of destructiveness, hate, envy, revenge; he worships power, money, the sovereign state, the nation; while he pays lip service to the teachings of the great spiritual leaders of the human race, those of Buddha, the prophets, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed—he has transformed these teachings into a jungle of superstition and idol-worship. How can mankind save itself from destroying itself by this discrepancy between intellectual-technical overmaturity and emotional backwardness?” 
― Erich FrommEscape from Freedom

On Malta I was talking to a young woman who worked in the bar . She was from Serbia and she told me a story about two English leave voters. They told her they voted to leave to stop immigration. When she pointed out that she was an immigrant they said “oh bot you are different” Its a story I have heard many times they always say "oh you are different” The simple truth is that those who think that way never meet these Schrodingers immigrants who can both take our jobs and claim benefits simultaneously. Its a question of reference its deep within our psychology. Its the way the problem is shown, described. The way the ,media show it, it stops true reflection. If we knew all the individual stories of the migrants it would be different. Yet we are denied the tools of analysis that give us a collective lens to join up the complex issues. We have an educational system that makes us all see Education as about getting a job, not how to critically think. Until we know a little Marx, a little Freud a little social science , a little philosophy then wa are the flotsam and jetsam on the sea of capitalism.

Of course there are many of the ruling elite who consciously and unconsciously do not wish us to think this way. There are many who are out there who wish to be critical but there is a massive fear of Freedom that holds us back, stultifies and paralyses us.

On the way in to work I run into an old friend , Clive and we chat of 2016. I give you Clive` words Trump is either a scoundrel or congenitally too stupid to last the first term as President I smile wish Clive good things for 2017 and return to the clinic.

These following thoughts come from the journey from Gatwick to Reading. They are rambling but a desperate desire to resist to rebel runs through them. On the Plane back from Malta we both find ourselves reading Chomsky and Fromm. These were the words in the stream of consciousness.......

Somewhere between towns,between countries. between years. between time zones, between hotels and transits, between temporalities. between patterns of little sleep......we return between Brexit and the inauguration of Trump we peer anxiously between surprising events into a world of post truth and simplistic solutions..we journey towards 2017 as we slouch towards Trumpton.......I wasn't made for a time like this were you? Winter is coming.....can Spring be not far behind where we wake to a kinder gentler world ,, we catch ourselves one reading Chomsky one Fromm on the fascist within us all and within the conscience's time to fight back ....

Monday, 19 December 2016

Happy Christmas from Malta

 I will be away in Malta till late in December. Hope you don`t miss me too much. Some words from the late Greg Lake for you all    Here is a picture of my hotel and the entrance to Malta harbour

They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the israelite
And I believed in father christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The christmas we get we deserve

Its been 1914 and yet..........

Its 1914 again and yet it is not. Europe is riven by nationalism, simplistic answers sweep over the continent. People are abused for being unpatriotic , a simplistic idea of loving ones country and hating others is being used. Fears of terrorists are everywhere and yet we have never been less likely to be blown up. In America Trump fills the swamp with man eating plutocrats, he rewards his followers in the rust belt by Exon Mobile executives, Gordon Geko types who will depress their wages further and de-skill them even more. The baying of Tory MPs use UKIP lite sounds and Labour MPs dream of the warmonger Tony Blair. It is revealed that UK made cluster bombs are being used by the Theocratic state Saudi Arabia (our allies that have cut of ten times as many heads as Isis} are being used in the Yemen. In the UK a new bitterness sweeps across the land, the leavers having won the referendum turn their attention to the unemployed, the sick, the vulnerable, a BBC researcher recruits audience members for Question Time from Britain First social media groups...yes its 1914 and yet.......

We have a multi party democracy, there are clear differences between the parties once more, there is a clear political choice. The labour Party is based at about 25 to 27% of the electorate and although the Tories stand at 40%. and although UKIP remains at 11 to 13 % the reviving Liberal Democrats probably have the chance to seize about one quarter of the Tory Vote. I dont trust the Liberal Democrats, they are quite capable of once more forming a coalition with the Tories but even they with their insipid leader must see that with the Greens, Labour and themselves supported by the SNP and Plaid are the route to a proportional representation and a progressive future.

The UK itself is under strain, Scotland is going one way, and the South East seems like another country. I am fed up with the bleating of patriotic kippers and the far right. They seem incapable of realising that to be proud of something then something has to be done, achieved, celebrated. Sure that can be Shakespeare, Milton, Bertrand Russel and not the simplistic acts of Eddie Hitler lookalike Paul Nuttal. What is this patriotic white working class he dreams of as he leads it to a privatised health service and lower wages? The education system is failing because we are seeking to created docile workers, unable to challenge the big lies put about by a right wing wing press. Its getting harder for white working class males to go to university because the education system is not designed to help create joined up thinking or how to think critically.

And yet it is not 1914 there are many possibilities, more are rebellung than ever, social media offers both a blessing and a curse. The left is about to be reborn and the scales will fall off the eyes of the rust belt voters, and tthose hypnotised hypnotised by the kippers. “2017 offers us a great deal if we would remember the old suffragette cry “ I would rather be a rebel than a slave" or Rosa Luxembourg`s comment "That those who dont move never feel the chains. The blog is taking a break for a few days I am on holiday, There will be one more post before 2017 its the blogs annual this space.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Wales Green Party Leadership team elected

Alice Hooker-Stroud has been re-elected as Spokesperson / Leader. Grenville Ham and Pippa Bartolotti have been elected as Deputy Spokespeople / Deputy Leaders. They take up their posts on 1st January. I'm sure you will join me in congratulating them and wishing them all the best for the coming two years. You can read the press release with more information on our website here.
 Grenville Ham, Pippa Bartolotti and Alice Hooker-Stroud
Wales Green Party Council would like to thank Hannah Pudner for her hard work and dedication as Deputy Spokesperson this year.
This is also my last email to you as National Co-ordinator. Thank you all for your support over the last two years - and all the best for 2017. If you have any general queries over the coming weeks please direct them to: contact@walesgreenparty.c

Proverbs of Hell William Blake, 1757 - 1827

From “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence. The cut worm forgives the plow. Dip him in the river who loves water. A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star. Eternity is in love with the productions of time. The busy bee has no time for sorrow. The hours of folly are measur’d by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure. All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap. Bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth. No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings. A dead body, revenges not injuries. The most sublime act is to set another before you. If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. Folly is the cloke of knavery. Shame is Prides cloke. ~ Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion. The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. The nakedness of woman is the work of God. Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the    destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. The fox condemns the trap, not himself. Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that    they may be a rod. What is now proved was once, only imagin’d. The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse,    the elephant, watch the fruits. The cistern contains; the fountain overflows. One thought, fills immensity. Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you. Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth. The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow. ~ The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion. Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night. He who has suffer’d you to impose on him knows you. As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers. The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. Expect poison from the standing water. You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title! The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth. The weak in courage is strong in cunning. The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion, the horse,    how he shall take his prey. The thankful reciever bears a plentiful harvest. If others had not been foolish, we should be so. The soul of sweet delight, can never be defil’d. When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius, lift up thy head! As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest    lays his curse on the fairest joys. To create a little flower is the labour of ages. Damn, braces: Bless relaxes. The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest. Prayers plow not! Praises reap not! Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not! ~ The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands &    feet Proportion. As the air to a bird of the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible. The crow wish’d every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white. Exuberance is Beauty. If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning. Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement,    are roads of Genius. Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires. Where man is not nature is barren. Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d. Enough! or Too much!

William Blake political radical “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” , Songs of Innocence and of Experience

I believe it is precisely because of his politics and anti-establishment views that people feel so much affection for Blake.
Following similar developments elsewhere in the Tate, the Blake exhibition is themed rather than chronological. This tends towards a separation of Blake the Gothic artist, Blake the radical and Blake the prophet. In someone like Blake, where these aspects of his life are inter-related in such a complex and rich way, I feel this has its disadvantages. It also reinforces Deuchar's idea of Blake the British patron saint, whose radicalism can be safely put to one side. I am sure Blake would turn in his grave at the thought of it. Blake himself saw these intimately linked aspects to his work when he said, “The Nature of my Work is Visionary or Imaginative; it is an Endeavour to Restore what the Ancients called the Golden Age”.
It seems that Blake was aware of his unusual imagination from an early age. When he was thirteen he wrote the poem Song—about Phoebus, the sun god who catches a bird in a silver net, shuts it in a golden cage and mocks its “loss of liberty”. Besides being an allegory on his loss of youth, Blake seems aware of his future life—for Phoebus is also the god of prophecy. He claimed he had his first vision when he was four.
Blake was born in 1757 to religious Dissenting parents. Dissent was a complex religious and intellectual tradition that owes its origins, in part, to the radical elements of the English Civil War such as the Levellers, who argued for greater equality. But it also encompassed the merchant and manufacturing classes in their fight against the aristocracy. It espoused ideas of the freeborn Englishman resisting the arbitrary powers of his masters and praying in his nonconformist chapel. It was expressed in books such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678), the allegorical tale of a Christian's journey to the Celestial City. There was also a Millenarian tradition based on a literal understanding of the Book of Revelations and the establishment of a New Jerusalem. The imagery was a reflection of deep objective changes in society that also expressed the subjective strivings for a better future.
Blake's father was an industrious London tradesman, who sent him to drawing school when he was ten and apprenticed him to James Basire, a well-known engraver, five years later. The exhibition shows some of the detailed studies, believed to be by Blake, of the mediaeval Gothic tombs in Westminster Abbey. Most are simple pen and ink with a grey wash. The study of the effigy of Queen Eleanor seen from above has a remarkable three-dimensional effect. That the young Blake, raised as a religious Protestant Dissenter, should find the flowing, simplistic figures of the mediaeval Catholic period an inspiration for his art is only one of his many contradictions.
Blake was to remain an engraver for the rest of his life, subsidising his experimental work with his commercial income. Engravers were viewed as skilled workers rather than artists and, for a long time, could not be members of the Royal Academy because that was, according to its documents, “incompatible with justice and a due regard to the dignity of the Royal Academy”. When Blake was finally admitted, he called them “a pack of Idle Sycophants”. He reserved particular venom for Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Academy, saying, “This man has been hired to depress Art”. He saw the Academy's training system, based on the copying of classical statues and paintings, as suppressing imagination. He felt the whole system was tied up with patronage and “where any view of Money exists Art cannot be carried on, but war only”.
In 1780 Blake witnessed the Gordon “No Popery” Riots. What had started as a petition by the Protestant Association against the toleration of Catholicism turned into mob violence against the wealthy and the burning of Newgate prison. The manipulation of the “mob” against the monarchy and aristocracy by Whig politicians was a characteristic of the eighteenth century until the French Revolution in 1789, when the threat of working class action outside the control of these politicians increased. (The Whigs were the political representatives of the industrialists and Dissenters that later provided the core of the Liberal Party).
It was also the year of Blake's first Royal Academy exhibition. He exhibited historical paintings, not the usual vainglorious scenes of British military victories but more subtle ones. The Death of Earl Godwin represents divine intervention, Lear—forgiveness and Magna Carta—liberty.
Although Blake was developing his own style, as the art historian Anthony Blunt remarked, “as a painter, had he died at the age of thirty, he would hardly be remembered at all”. However, the social and intellectual ferment that led to the French Revolution transformed his Art.
In 1788 he produced his first illuminated book, All Religions are One.According to Blake, all religions were products of the Imagination or Poetic Genius and therefore contain the same essential truths. This idea was one strand of deism, that was a half way house between full-blown revelatory religion and secularism. In part, it was a response to the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that increasingly displaced religion. Blake wrestled with this development and what he saw as its implication—in a world that can be explained rationally, what role is there for the imagination and, ultimately, for the artist? It was a complaint voiced by other Romantic artists, who criticised the scientists and philosophers who seemed to make humans passive creatures without creative reason and imagination. However, it cannot be regarded simply as a reactionary movement against rational thought. It was part and parcel of the Enlightenment—the complex cultural phenomenon that addressed many of the questions in science, society and the arts that a previous generation could not begin to examine.
The home of the Enlightenment was France, where the old monarchical regime was most decadent. The middle classes were increasingly prosperous and confident, and their ideologists such as Voltaire and Diderot expressed their desires “to be something”.
Artists, paralleling scientific discoveries, sought to understand the human mind, the subconscious and its contradictions. This found one expression in the cult of the hero. Napoleon, until he became Emperor, attracted many artists, as did Satan—the anti-hero and source of energy and vitality. Above all, Romanticism is associated with the concept of the “sublime”. Sometimes it is the elemental power of nature—shipwrecks were a favourite theme. Sometimes it is overt horror, as in the paintings of Blake's friend Henry Fuseli (1745 - 1825). At other times it is less extreme. The portrait of William Blake by Thomas Phillips in 1807 (
) that is exhibited at the Tate perfectly captures a subtle sublime atmosphere. Blake does not look out at us, but upwards, as if in a trance. Phillips asked him to imagine he was talking to the Angels as he sat for the painting. Though otherworldly, one gets the impression of Blake, the human, deeply concerned about this world.
In his next book, There is No Natural Religion, Blake questions another aspect of deism, which says that one can only know God through his works (Nature). Blake argues that God is only truly knowable through revelation. The exhibition has one page of the book on display called Application. It is a rather crude etching in green ink around the single saying, “He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who only sees the Ratio [rational] only sees himself”. Underneath is a cloaked and bearded figure on all fours with a pair of compasses in one hand. This is a recurring image in Blake's work derived from the mediaeval idea of God the Great Architect.
However, Blake gives this image an almost opposite meaning. God the Father, often called Urizen—the Creator—in Blake's own mythology, represents the law-giving, restrictive and unforgiving enemy of humanity. These ideas were the basis of the “primeval priest's assumed power” and lead to the repressive power of the established churches, a familiar idea in Dissent.
The following year saw more illuminated printing—the Songs of Innocence. Jesus, the forgiving Shepherd-God and not the vengeful God the Father, plays a central role. The pictures have a curved and flowing style, with many symbols. Trees and vines suggest fruitfulness and security. The flaming red and gold of sunset and sunrise spread across the pages. Blake intended the text and picture to complement each other and they do. The whole work achieves a subtle and warm confidence in humankind. Even when orphan children are dragged to church to sing for their benefactors, they sing their hearts out, their innocent voices soaring above the meanness below. One has the feeling that Blake has great confidence in humanity.
By 1794, Blake was selling Songs of Innocence combined with Songs of Experience, “Shewing the Two Contrary States of Man”. It is a complex amalgam, with songs complementing and subverting each other. Here is The Nurses Song from the Songs of Innocence:
When the voices of children are heard on the green
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast
And everything else is still
“Then come home my children, the sun is gone down
And the dews of night arise;
Come leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.”
“No no let us play, for it is yet day
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides in the sky, the little birds fly
And the hills are all covered in sheep.”
“Well well go and play till the light fades away
And then go home to bed.”
The little ones leaped and shouted and laugh'd
And all the hills ecchoed.
(Blake's Poetry and Designs, Norton Critical Editions, 1979)
Beneath the poem is a small engraving showing seven children in loose clothing, holding hands, dancing in a circle. The nurse sits reading her book under trees that form a protective enveloping canopy. (The illustrations toSongs of Innocence can be viewed at
In contrast, here is The Nurses Song from the Songs of Experience:
When the voices of children are heard on the green
And whisprings are in the dale:
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.
“Then come home my children, the sun is gone down
And the dews of night arise
Your spring and your day, are wasted in play
And your winter and night in disguise”
Beneath this much darker poem the engraving shows a single boy, smartly dressed, his nurse combing his hair. The poem itself is only two verses—severely curtailed. The voices of children are absent. (The illustrations toSongs of Experience can be viewed at
This change between the two sets of poems coincides with the development of the French Revolution. Blake already exhibited sympathy for the revolutionary struggle for liberty when he exhibited War unchained by an angel, Fire, Pestilence and Famine Following at the Royal Academy in 1784. In this picture, Blake shows his support for the American Revolution (1776 - 1781) and his opposition to the British war of intervention, with all its “dark horrors”.
The revolution in France received widespread support in Britain. The first signs of a working class movement in Britain differentiating itself from religious Dissent accompanied it. As the historian EP Thompson puts it, “one often feels the dormant seeds of political Radicalism lie within it [Dissent], ready to germinate whenever planted in a beneficial and hopeful social context.” (The making of the English Working Class, Pelican, 1963) The French Revolution was just such a context and it was the development the government feared most. As the Blake Exhibition shows, an atmosphere of state terror was built up to suppress the widespread agitation for democracy between 1792-96. On display is a Royal Proclamation requiring magistrates to stamp out riots, provide intelligence reports and destroy “wicked and seditious Writings [that] have been printed, published and industriously dispersed”.
There are also copies of Tom Paine's Rights of Man: Being An Answer to Mr Burke's Attack on the French Revolution, which sold 100,000 copies largely through the efforts of the London Corresponding Society. Paine attacked the monarchy and hereditary principle (though not private property and laissez-faire economics) and proposed state welfare as a right. Whereas Burke said government should be based on tradition, wisdom and experience (his “philosophy of conservatism”), Paine said each generation should decide its own rights and government. Paine was elected a deputy for the Calais region in northern France and plans were made for a British National Convention.
As the Convention met in Edinburgh, William Pitt's government arrested the leaders. There is an interesting print at the Tate by Richard Newton (1777- 1798) entitled Promenade in the State Side of Newgate 1793. It shows John Horne Tooke, who founded the Society of the Bill of Rights in 1769, as a “jail-bird” and the radical lawyer John Frost.
Frost was a delegate of the London Corresponding Society to the French National Convention and attended the trial of King Louis XVI. Joseph Gerrald, who proposed the British Convention to the London Corresponding Society, is also depicted. He was sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Australia, but only survived one year.
Across the country the government encouraged the formation of Associations for the Preservation of Liberty and Property against Republicans and Levellers. “Church and King” mobs were organised that burnt effigies of Paine. Special targets of these organisations were the print shops that published “seditious Writings” and served as meeting places for radicals. In the 1780s and 1790s, Blake's main employer was Joseph Johnson. His bookshop in the City of London was a meeting place for the likes of Paine, the anarchistic William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Vindication of the Rights of Women and for whom Blake illustrated Original Stories from Real Life. Blake was known for wearing the red cap of the French revolutionaries and was a supporter of Paine, helping him escape into exile. Within a few yards of Blake's house the anti-Jacobin Lambeth Loyalist Association met. In this atmosphere Blake wrote, “I say I shan't live five years and if I live one it will be a Wonder. June 1793”.
Despite the threat to his life from pro-Monarchist forces, the period of the Revolution was also an artistic catalyst for Blake. He saw revolution as a symbol of energy and regeneration and for a time the French Revolution as ushering in the new Utopia.
In 1789 he published The Book of Thel, the virgin who passes from Innocence to Experience questioning how she can have a fulfilled life. He illustrated Narrative of a Five Year's Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam 1791, John Stedman's first hand account of the brutal suppression of a slave revolt in South America. In the engraving The Execution of Breaking on the Rack, a black slave is stretched out on a wooden frame. An axe rests on the ground. A severed hand lies close by. Crouching above him another slave raises a stick. He is about to smash it down on one of the captive's legs. According to Stedman it “broke his bones to shivers till the marrow, blood and splinters flew about the field—but the sufferer never uttered a groan nor a sigh”. Blake captures the fortitude of the victim and the horror on the face of his friend, forced to carry out the torture. (See
He developed his ideas on the role of women in 1793 with The Visions of the Daughters of Albion. It is the story of the rape of Oothon, the “soft soul of America”, who searches for sexual fulfilment and represents the spirit of freedom, vulnerability, and the energy of the American Revolution. She questions the value of an unloving marriage:
“Till she who burns with youth, and knows no fixed lot, is bound
In spells of law to one she loathes? And must she drag the chain
Of life in weary lust”

In 1790 Blake started the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a satire on Emmanuel Swedenborg's Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen. Blake had attended the General Conference of the New Jerusalem Church in 1789 that had unanimously voted for Swedenborg's doctrines. However, Blake quickly came to see him as a “spiritual Predestinarian” who repeated “all the old falsehoods”. Swedenborg had attacked Thomas Paine and expelled most of his anti-slavery congregation.
Blake counterposes his “Contraries” to Swedenborg's idea of equilibrium. “Without Contraries is no progression”, says Blake. “Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to Human existence.” Angels and devils fly, dance and embrace across the pages undermining the simplistic view that good is better than evil.
My favourite illustration in Marriage of Heaven and Hell is plate 14. Blake tells us, “The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell”. What now appears “finite and corrupt” will become “infinite and holy” through an “improvement of sensual enjoyment”, especially sexual fulfilment. But first, man's body and soul must be reunited and Blake claims he will show us how through his Art. His printing is a gift from Hell—the “infernal method of corrosives, which in Hell are salutatory and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite, which was hid”. Here Blake refers to his unique method of copper plate etching, where acid is used to eat around the areas that are left standing proud to receive the ink. The result is of much rougher and broader appearance. Traditional techniques had relied on the etched-out areas holding the ink.
In the same plate Blake sees himself as “cleansing the doors of perception” for man who “has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.” At the top of the page lies a naked man, perhaps Blake himself, dead or asleep. Above, a figure—all you can see is the top of its head and outstretched arms—sweeps up over the man. The rest of its body dissolved in a curtain of red and gold flames. It is a powerful and beautiful page full of allegories.
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell ends with The Song of Liberty and its last line, “For every thing that lives is holy”. (For illustrations accompanying The Marriage of Heaven and Hell see
In 1792 the September terror took place in France, in which thousands of aristocrats were executed, including the King. These events provoked the first signs of an intellectual disenchantment in Britain. By 1799 the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was writing to William Wordsworth, “I wish you would write a poem in blank verse addressed to those who, in consequence of the complete failure of the French Revolution, have thrown up all hopes for the amelioration of mankind and are sinking into an almost Epicurean selfishness”.
Blake seems to have been similarly affected. He started writing The French Revolution, but never published it, and it only deals with events up to the terror. But he still laid the blame with the English government. The Accusers, an etching in green ink, is subtitled Our End Is Come. It is a celebration of “when France receiv'd the Demon's light”. Three stocky figures stand together, hysterical and scared. The centre one wears a crown representing King George; the other two guard him. The same year he produced a coloured version. The King is in black armour and red cloak; smoke and flames seem to emanate from his feet and billow up around them all.
In 1793, Blake produced America: A Prophecy. In it, George Washington's “strong voice” blasts across the sea to the dragon “Guardian Prince of Albion” (King George again), who spits out “flam'd red meteors”, provoking the serpent Orc “lover of wild rebellion” and “Hater of Dignities”. (See ) Orc defeats the Prince and spreads plague and misery across Albion, a theme developed in Europe: A Prophecy. The frontispiece has one of his most famous images, the ”Ancient of Days”, depicting again the God the Father figure restricting the world of imagination with his compasses. (See
Blake created his illuminated Book of Urizen in 1794, which again explores his concern with Imagination. (See He then turned to other media, in particular bigger images without text. An important reason for the change in his work was the reactionary political atmosphere. Those who prophesised apocalyptic social change faced great risks. Richard Brothers, who won a substantial following with his predictions of an era of universal brotherhood after an imminent Apocalypse, was sent to an asylum for 11 years.
The colour print Newton( is a particularly striking painting, showing the naked scientist who successfully wakes the dead but in the process brings disease and darkness—a reference to the Book of Revelations. Sitting like a statue on a rock covered in waving coral-like creatures, Newton concentrates on a mathematical diagram, compasses in his hand. It is an ambivalent image of Newton the rationalist, but, as ever, redemption is at hand—the white sheet of mortality is about to slip off his body.
Blake has sometimes been depicted as being anti-science, but his attitude, as I explained earlier, is that rationalism should be balanced by imagination. He was well read in the sciences and realised their creative nature, calling Newton “a mighty Spirit”. The “Mental Fight” he espoused in Jerusalemincluded the intellectual development of science, as well as art. He designed several plates for Erasmus Darwin's Botanic Garden and produced a portrait of David Hartley, whose Observations on Man tackled the relationship between the physiological and psychological.
In 1797, English sailors mutinied at Spithead and Nore, blockading the Thames and threatening to sail to France the same year that the Bishop of Llandaff launched an attack on Paine. Blake still defended Paine, saying he had “extinguished superstition” and expressed his “Energetic Genius”. To Blake, although the Bible was important for its sentiments and examples, it was also part of a “State Trick”. Priests were “Dishonest, Designing Knaves who in the hope of a good living adopt the State Religion”.
In 1800, Blake left London for Felpham on England's south coast, writing, “In joy Beams over the Sea, a bright light over France, but the Web and the Veil I have left behind me at London”. There he was put on trial: A soldier had accused him of sedition after Blake had forced him out of his garden. He was acquitted and moved back to London. He called those years “the Darkest Years that ever a Mortal suffer'd”.
In 1804, Napoleon was crowned Emperor. Most intellectuals and artists regarded it as the final blow to revolutionary sentiment, but it seems to have spurred Blake on to greater exploration of the reasons for this development. He started on a new grand poem Milton. John Milton had been an official in Cromwell's revolutionary government after the English Civil War and was the country's most famous poet. Blake admired his opposition to tyranny and defence of a free press. However, he thought Milton had lost his revolutionary energy after the restoration of the monarchy. Milton had become too rational and believed in a fiery jealous God rather than the forgiving Holy Spirit. He was infected by the “silly Greek and Latin slaves of the Sword”, who would “depress Mental and prolong Corporeal War”. Hence, Blake's hymn to “Mental Fight” in “And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England's mountain green” that appears at the beginning of the book.
In Milton, Blake again addresses how it is possible to keep the prophetic spirit alive. But for him, the solution would only occur when all classes of society accepted Jesus the revolutionary thus allowing forgiveness and reconciliation to follow. (See
The title page for Jerusalem, Blake's longest illuminated book, was also dated 1804—but none were printed before 1820. Its 100 plates elaborate earlier themes about the Biblical Fall of Man, the need for forgiveness rather than accusation, freedom of Art and the problems with rationalism. In it, Blake wanted to reunite England with Jerusalem on a truly revolutionary and early Christian religious basis.
In the few years before he died, other artists finally came to appreciate Blake. John Linnell commissioned Blake to paint watercolours of Dante's Divine Comedy. They are an unfinished series that show Blake had lost none of his artistic powers. I think they are his most expressive, showing Dante's ideas in images without the need of text. Such is the case with the swirling patterns ofBeatrice Addressing Dante from the Car( But Blake also softens Dante's mediaeval harshness, saying, “Dante saw devils where I see none—I see only good”. He warns us about Dante's reconciliation at the end of the Divine Comedy with the dogmatic Roman Catholic Church.
By the end of his life, Blake had carried out his promise to “Create a System or be enslv'd by another Man's”. In his mythology, he had created a “sublime allegory address'd to the intellectual powers”. He saw himself as successor to the revolutionary Milton, as Los the blacksmith that “rouzes the faculties to act” and re-forges the imagination of the slumbering giant Albion of Ancient England. The appeal to ancient British folklore was common currency. Joseph Gerrald, after all, had proposed the Convention, likening it to the folk moot (meeting) of Saxon England.
In 1827, the last year of his life, Blake wrote to a friend about those Englishmen who despised “Republican Art” and who, after the French Revolution, thought they were in a “happy state of agreement to which I for One do not agree”. It is amazing that he appears to have retained his radicalism and confidence in humanity. He wrote in The Everlasting Gospel:
“Thou art a Man, God is no more
Thy own humanity learn to adore”
The Tate exhibition is well worth visiting. It is unlikely such a comprehensive collection will be on display again. Do not be put off by the publicity about a mad, misogynist Blake. The images are beautiful and if you take time to understand their allegorical nature—as Blake would have wished—you will see he was firmly rooted in the popular tradition and a unique artist concerned with the problems of his day. And that he gives inspiration for today.

Brief History of the islands of Malta and Gozo

Malt is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, halfway between Gibraltar and Alexandria, and Sicily and North Africa. Thus it has always been at the cross-roads of the trading and warring routes of this land-locked sea.
Malta is chiefly composed of limestone with no hills higher than 300 metres and no rivers. On the South-West side it is guarded by high cliffs whilst on the North-East side the shore is indented with sheltered harbours. These proved to be very attractive to the sailors and navigators that sailed the Mediterranean.
The origin of Maltese history goes back to some 4500 years BC, when some people from the neighbouring island of Sicily, who could see the island lying on the horizon, decided to cross the narrow waters to investigate. This obviously could not have happened unless these people had skills in sailing or rowing some form of craft which was large enough to carry with them their belongings, which included such animals as sheep, goats and cattle, as well as seeds like wheat and barley.
These people settled on the island and sheltered in the many caves which exist there. The earliest inhabited cave is called 'Ghar-Dalam', the cave of darkness, where remains of these people and their artefacts give us an insight into their way of life. They cultivated the land, growing wheat and barley and practised animal husbandry.
Around 3500 BC they started to build large buildings the like of which were not to be found anywhere else. They kept in touch with their cousins in Sicily obtaining from them obsidian and flint with which they could make tools to help them work the stones. These buildings, of which there are fifteen , are spread across the island. They are the oldest existing megalithic structures known to man - places like Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Tarxien, etc. antedate the pyramids and Stonehenge by some 1000 years. This Neolithic peril about 1800 years, when, for no explicable reason, it ended abruptly. Nobody knows what happened, but famine, over population and disease could have been possible causes.
Around 1200 BC Phoenicia started to expand her empire. The Phoenicians were traders and great mariners who sailed their ships along the shores of the Mediterranean. They sailed to England where they traded tin. It is said that they circumnavigated the continent of Africa. They settled on the North coast of Africa and established a city called Carthage. They also settled on the West coast of Sicily and in Malta. Indeed, the name 'Malta' is said to be derived from the Phoenician word 'Maleth', meaning refuge. Their stay in Malta was to last for 320 years. Conceivably the roots of the Maltese language derive from this Phoenician period. The Phoenicians also introduced glass making and weaving and built temples were they could worship their gods.
Meanwhile, the city of Carthage grew in size and strength and eventually carved out an empire which covered the North African coast to the west of Carthage, and included Spain, Sardinia, Western Sicily and Malta. The Carthaginians got into difficulties with the Greeks in Eastern Sicily and with the arrival of Rome on the political scene during the 3rd century BC it was inevitable that the two nations would wage war for mastery of the area. Three wars, known as the Punic Wars, were fought from 264 to 146 BC ending with the fall of Carthage, and with Rome becoming supreme in the Central and Western Mediterranean. Malta became part of the Roman Empire during the 2nd Punic War (c. 218 BC) and remained part of the empire till the Vandals raided the islands in AD 395. One event of great importance to the Maltese took place in AD 5 8, when St. Paul, who was on his way to Rome as a prisoner, was shipwrecked on the Island. He stayed for three months during which time he introduced Christianity to the people. The Maltese take great pride in saying that they were one of the first nations to accept Christianity as their faith - but that is another story.
We now enter a dark period in Maltese history, the period from AD 395 to 535. No records exist as to what happened during that time. Rome fell the Vandals in AD 455 and it is quite likely that towards the end of the 4th century, Malta too became part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom centred in Rome In AD 535, Malta was conquered by General Belissarius the Byzantine to form part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, till the arrival of the Arabs.
Islam started with the Hegira, when Mohammed fled from Mecca to Medina in AD 622. Before long his followers spread across North Africa into Spain and across the Pyrenees. Their expansion into Europe was stopped by the French King Charles Martel at Tours in AD 732, just one hundred years after the death of Mohammed. They invaded and captured Palermo in AD 832 and in 870 they invaded Malta. Once again Malta came in contact with a new and vigorous Semitic people.
Unfortunately, very little documentation relating to the two centuries of Arab rule in Malta survives today. Indeed, Arab influence in Malta lasted much longer, since the Normans, who invaded in 1090 and took over the island from the Arabs, were indeed enlightened people and they tolerated the presence of the Arabs in the island. In fact, Count Roger never garrisoned the islands. Arab influence remained more or less unrestricted till about 1224, when the Muslims were finally expelled. The chief legacy of the Arab occupation in Malta must be the Maltese language itself, which has many elements of Arabic.
Legends about the coming of Count Roger and the Normans to Malta are numerous, but most probably unfounded. Count Roger is said to have given Malta her flag based on the Hauteville colours. He is reputed to have re-Christianised the Maltese, established churches, re-appointed a bishop and even expelled the Arabs. All of this is doubtful. However, the Normans' presence opened the door for the re-Europeanisation of the Maltese people. The so-called Norman Period lasted till 1194 and though the Normans left many treasures and architecture in Sicily, hardly any relics of this period exist in Malta.
Following the death of King Roger II in 1154, a series of political struggles ensued. William the Good died childless in 1189 and a dispute arose over his successor. The rightful heir was the daughter of Roger 1, Constance, who was married to Henry VI, son of the German Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. However, the Pope had other ideas. Fearing the penetration of the Germans in Sicily and Southern Italy, the church threw its support with Tancred. He was crowned king in 1190. However, he did not last long because Henry VI, through a series of intrigues within Tancred's court, acquired Sicily in 1194. Thus Malta became part of the German Kingdom under Frederick II - the Hohenstaufen rule. The Arabs were finally expelled from Sicily and Malta after an uprising in 1224.
Following the death of Frederick II in 1250, the Hohenstaufen dynasty declined very rapidly. Many of Frederick's enemies, including the church, were keen to rid Sicily and Southern Italy of the Germans. Sixteen years of plots and counterplots eventually brought a new master to Malta. In 1266, Pope Clement finally achieved his objective and proclaimed Charles of Anjou as King of Sicily.
Although the period of Angevin rule over Malta was short-lived (1266-1283), it is from this point onward that Malta shifted into the European scheme of government and administration. Because of high taxation, moves were made in Sicily to restore the island to Aragon, the rightful heirs to the crown of Sicily. Things came to a head in 1282 with the Sicilian uprising against the French, known as the Sicilian Vespers, which led to a bloody massacre of the French. The Aragonese took immediate advantage and installed Peter of Aragon as ruler of Sicily and Malta.
The Aragonese period in Malta was to last for 130 years. During that time the Maltese people suffered the indignity of having their island handed from one noble to another as a fief for various services rendered to the king. These individuals increased taxation which led to local unrest amongst the people. Malta remained at the mercy of these powerful Sicilian magnates, like the Alagonas and the Moncadas. It was not till 1397 that the local council for Malta and Gozo, the Universita, made a strong petition to the crown for the islands to be restored to direct rule by the King.
In 1412, Ferdinand de Antequera was elected King of Aragon, Castille and Sicily, the first Castillian to ever occupy the throne. In 1421, King Alfonso granted the Maltese islands and all the revenue from them to Don Antonio Cardona in exchange for a loan of 30,000 gold florins. He then transferred his right over Malta and Gozo to Don Gonsalvo Monroy. The Maltese disagreed with this arrangement. After five years they finally rebelled. In 1426 they pillaged Monroy's house in Mdina and laid siege to his castle at Birgu. The Maltese bought back the island for 30,000 florins. They also insisted on radical reforms including one that said that the islands wore never to be ceded again by the crown. Alfonso agreed to these reforms and finally ratified them in a Royal Charter in 1428.
In 1479, Ferdinand II married Isabella of Castille. Their daughter Joanna married Philip Archduke of Austria. In 1518, the Habsburg dynasty was consolidated when their son Charles V, became the Holy Roman Emperor. Through the intercession of Pope Clement VIII, he granted Malta, Gozo and Tripoli to the homeless Order of St. John in 1530.
The Order of St. John came to Malta after the loss of Rhodes in 1522. They had been in Rhodes since 1309. Before that they were in the Holy Land where the Order was established in 1099 by Blessed Gerard to look after the pilgrims and the crusaders. The main enemy now was Turkey. The Ottomans were the dread of the Christian powers bordering the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Malta was becoming of supreme strategic importance for the control of the Mediterranean against the alarming growth of Muslim power. In 1547 the Turks made an unexpected attack on Malta and Gozo, taking many prisoners. The attack that followed in 1551 was more serious, for they ransacked Gozo and made off with 5000 prisoners. The Order was convinced that they must prepare the defences of the island for a bigger invasion. Soon afterwards, in 1565, a great Turkish armada appeared off the coast of Malta, starting what is now called The Great Siege of Malta, which was to last for four long months. When it was finally raised on the 7th September of the same year, many knights and Maltese had lost their lives, as did many Turks.
After the siege a new city was built, called Valletta in honour of the Grand Master who led the Order through the siege. This was to be a modem, fortified city, and eventually a city of culture and commerce. The city grew and so did the wealth of the Order. The threat of Turkish invasion was ever present. In 1572 the Turkish fleet was defeated by the Christian powers, including the Order, led by Don Juan of Austria at the battle of Lepanto.
In the years that followed, Valletta became an impregnable fortress, housing imposing palaces and churches. It also became a flourishing centre for trade and learning. Successive Grandmasters initiated grand projects, such as the building of many fortifications, aqueducts and a university, where the teaching of anatomy and surgery took place.
As time went by, however, the Order began to decline. The haughtiness and despotism of some of the Grandmasters upset the Maltese, leading to the famous Rebellion of the Priests, led by Mannarino in 1775 during the magistery of Ximenes de Texada. After the death of Grandmaster de Rohan (1797) the Order elected Ferdinand von Hompesch as its leader.
The situation in Europe at the time was explosive. The French revolution had changed the face of Europe and through the influence of Napoleon Bonaparte, 'The Directory' gave him permission to invade Egypt and take Malta in the process. In 1798 he invaded Malta and expelled the Order. Thus ended 268 years of rule by the Order of St. John.
French rule in Malta lasted only two years. The Maltese rebelled within three months of their arrival, besieging them in Valletta, from where, with the help of the British, they were finally ousted in 1800. The British occupied the island and for the next fifteen years the fate of Malta was undecided. The Maltese did not want the knights back and Britain was quite undecided as to whether it wanted to stay in Malta, but equally Britain did not want either the French or the Russians, who had their eyes on Malta for quite a while, to occupy the islands. The Maltese finally made up their mind and asked the British to stay. In the treaty of Paris, the occupation of Malta by the British was finally recognised. This was legalised in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna.
The Maltese got used to British rule but it was not long before the Maltese appealed to the British for equal participation in the running of their island. Mitrovich and Sceberras made extraordinary efforts for this cause, as a result of which a Council of Government was set up in 1835, a small beginning along the road to representative government.
Despite slow progress in the field of constitutional reform, Malta moved ahead, particularly in defence and imperial strategy. Malta benefited from increased defence spending by Britain. The dockyards were enlarged with five new dry docks being completed by 187 1. Malta prospered.
The Crimean War (1854-56) again brought considerable military activity to the island and Malta's importance as a supply station and as a naval base was unquestionable. When steam replaced sails, and after the opening of the Suez canal, Malta thrived. She was now on the highway between Europe and the East. With every ship calling, the grand harbour became a beehive of activity from which everybody benefited.
As usual the island's prosperity was quickly reflected in a dramatic rise in the population. This would continue well into the 20th century. From 114,000 in 1842, the population rose to 124,000 by 1851. Twenty years later it would reach 140,000 and it would more than double by the advent of World War II. With each increase, the problem of congestion, especially in the urban areas of Valletta and the Three Cities, would become serious. Attempts were made to encourage the people to move to the newer suburbs and the older towns and villages. Despite the prosperity, employment for the ever increasing work force would not always be available. Emigration schemes were introduced which initially were not successful. However, towards the end of the century, with the trade boom on the decline and Malta's fortune ebbing, the Maltese started to emigrate, mainly to North Africa.
The political situation in Malta before World War I was increasingly overshadowed by the economic gloom that engulfed the island. The position deteriorated over a long time due to competition from other well-equipped ports in the Mediterranean. Government revenue from the slower activities in Malta's ports was falling steeply. It became clear that Malta's dependence on Britain's military spending was a severe handicap. Whenever there was a cut in defence spending, the people suffered.
The winds of change in Europe and the gathering clouds of war also weighed heavily over Malta, and when World War I broke out, the people rallied to the allied cause. The naval dockyards again came into their own - but at the close of the war Malta had to once more face reality. There were to be severe cutbacks in defence spending. Much hardship and distress followed. Men were discharged from the army and naval establishments, unemployment soared and inflation ate its way into the miserable pay packets. There were strikes and protests. On the 7th June 1919 a huge and angry crowd gathered in Valletta for one of the meetings of the assembly. The pent-up frustration of the people suddenly exploded into a riot. The mob got out of control and caused much damage. Troops were called in and they opened fire. Five men were killed.
In 1921 Malta achieved responsible government. Under a new constitution she was to have a legislative assembly composed of 32 elected members and an upper house of 16 members. All internal domestic affairs were to be in the hands of the Maltese with Britain retaining responsibility for foreign affairs and defence.
Germany started the Second World War in September 1939. Malta was soon in the thick of it, once again coveted for its great strategic position in the Mediterranean. She was bombed very heavily by the Italian and German air forces and after two and a half years of never-ending air raids, the bravery, heroism and sacrifice of its people were recognised when King George VI awarded the Maltese people the George Cross Medal.
After the war Britain started the process of decolonisation. Malta too was part of that process, but her path to independence was slow and often uncertain. Self-government was restored in 1947, but the decision of the British Government to dismiss workers from the dockyards caused massive unemployment. Consequently, there began a great exodus of Malta's people to the United States, Canada and Australia, where work was available.
By 1964 a call for independence was made by the major political parties and after discussions with the British Government, an independence agreement, tied to a ten year defence and financial accord with the United Kingdom was finally approved. On 21 September 1964, Malta became a sovereign and independent nation within the Commonwealth.

Ten years later, Parliament enacted important changes to the constitution and on the 13th December 1974, Malta was declared a Republic within the Commonwealth and appointed Sir Anthony Mamo as the first Maltese President of the Republic of Malta. Five years later, the last of the British troops on the island left Malta and on 31 March 1979 the Union Jack was finally lowered. Malta had at last reached the goal for which its people had striven for many centuries - the ability to make decisions on their own for their own good and the good of their own people, without any interference from outside powers. Malta is represented at the United Nations, takes an active part in European affairs and has finally taken its rightful place amongst the