Malta, a British possession in the Mediterranean (anciently Melita), 58 miles from Sicily and about 180 from the African coast, and having an area of 91i square miles, and a population, inclusive of some 8,000 British troops, of about 174.000 souls. Agriculture and maritime trade are the chief sources of employment and wealth. Valetta, the present capital of Malta, possesses one of the best harbours in the world, and, besides being an important naval station, is a commercial port of call. The temperature is in summer semi-tropical, and in winter moderate. The island is full of fine ancient buildings; there is an excellent educational system. The government is carried on by a governor (who is usually a general),an executive council of 10, and a legislative council of 6 official and 14 elected members. In 1890 the revenue was £261,254, and the expenditure £266,900. The islands were anciently occupied in succession by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantine Greeks - or, in other words, by the powers which, for the time being, had command of the Mediterranean. After a period of subserviency to the Moors, it was taken in 1090 by Count Roger the Norman, of Sicily. In 1530 it was transferred to the Knights of St. John, who used it as a stronghold of Christianity against the Turks, withstood a great siege in 1565, and held it until in 1798 they were driven out by Napoleon. In 1800 it passed, by capitulation, from the control of France to that oi' England, after the inhabitants had risen on the French; and in 1814 the ownership of the islands was confirmed to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris. Malta has since been retained on account of its value as a naval headquarters and as a. step upon the shortest route between England and India; and, to render it serviceable in both these capacities, it has been very strongly fortified and armed, and thoroughly equipped as a first-class naval arsenal. Valetta itself is protected by an enceinte with numerous bastions, and by forts Saint Elmo, Kicasoli, Tigne, Citta Vittoriosa, Sliema, Kaura, Ghoslien, St. Thomas, Monsciar, and Delamara. For governmental purposes, Malta includes the islands of Gozo and Comino, as well as some other islets. The island of Coniino has a battery opposite fort Ghoslien, and the island of Gozo has several works. There are also large docks and pontoons, and naval and military depots and stores of all kinds.
The inhabitants of Malta are the issue of numerous interminglings - aborigines of unknown stock, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans - all of whom were strongly Arabised during the occupation of Sicily by the Saracens. The Maltese language, still spoken almost exclusively by the peasantry, contains about 70 per cent. of Arab words, although the structure is rather Italian than Semitic. It is spoken in its greatest purity in Gozo, and is obligatory in all the schools. the people are a fine vigorous race, of medium height, with black hair and eyes, and brown complexion. They are a gay, sociable, frugal, and industrious people, increasing so rapidly that many are compelled yearly' to emigrate, chiefly to Algeria, Tunis, Egypt, Sicily, and Italy. Including these emigrants, Maltese is at present spoken by about 250,000 persons as their mother tongue; but it is little cultivated, and even in Malta nearly all the periodicals are Italian.