Malta has been populated for over 8,000 years and the Neolithic temples still standing in the south of the island, are believed to be the oldest freestanding monuments in the world.
Malta was invaded by the Arabs during the Middle Ages, who brought over the Siculo-Arabic language from Sicily. The language would eventually evolve into current-day Maltese.
The Normans seized Malta around 1091 and it became part of the Kingdom of Sicily, which also covered a large part of present day Italy.
The Order of Knights of St John ruled the islands from 1530 until 1798. The Knights improved living conditions across the island. They built hospitals, stimulated trade and commerce and erected strong fortifications. During their rule, the Knights successfully held out for many months throughout the horrific fighting and massive assaults by Ottoman invaders, known now as The Great Siege of 1565.
In 1798 Napoleon’s army conquered the island and in the six days that followed the take-over a civil code was laid down for Malta. Slavery was abolished and all Turkish slaves were freed. Napoleon himself created a primary and secondary education system and a more scientific based university replaced the old one.
The British Throne took over Malta after Napoleon’s demise and ruled the islands for the next 160 years. Malta was bombed persistently by German forces during World War II in an attempt to take over the island, which was known as a location of high strategic importance for both trade and conflict. The determination and strong spirit shown by the population of Malta led King George VI to award Malta the George Cross. This award is still part of the national flag of Malta and is seen as a symbol of a proud nation.
The Maltese gained their independence from the British in 1964 and the country would continue as a sovereign state and republic. Since May 2003, Malta is a member of the European Union.