Review: The Fortifications of Malta, 1530-1945, Charles Stephenson

Rating: 3 out of 5

I expect more from an Osprey book. I would definitely expect more from an Osprey book that dealt with the islands of Malta. Not only is Malta a perfect place to study 16th to 18th century fortification theory, but the islands are well-documented and the theory behind the various constructions is also well known. At times, the distinction between various phases of fortifications is also not well noted which is a pity as the pre-1565 siege status as opposed to latter fortifications should have been clearly noted. The drawings are, as always, superb.

In effect, the history of fortifications by the Knights of St John relied heavily on the previous structures and the need to protect the two amazing natural harbours. This is noted in the text, but not in appropriate clarity. Though the few pre-16th century fortifications fall outside of the scope in years, it would have been relevant to note how the Aragonese Crown’s decisions to defend some places reflected themselves in the reality of life a few centuries later (that would be, then, the Citadella, Mdina and Castrum Maris).

The post-Knights period is rather well documented and seems to be given plenty of treatment.

Overall, the book is an okay history of fortifications on Malta, but especially with regards to some other titles in the Osprey series, does not carry its weight when looking into the phases of construction and their motivation (generally, the attitudes of different Grand Masters). I was also disappointed in the section on modern Malta which could have offered a lot clearer directions on what to visit and see.

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