There are few books about Malta that can boast of 11 reprintings, and of having remained in circulation and in demand since they were first published.
The Story of Malta, by Brian Blouet, is one of them. The book was first published in 1967 by Faber and Faber, but the author was lured by Progress Press in 1981 and the book has been through several editions since. The latest is now on sale.
Prof. Blouet's close encounter with Malta started in the mid-1950s when he was here on his national service in the Royal Air Force. He was stationed at Ta' Qali - which the British persisted in calling Ta' Kali - and worked at Lascaris ditch in the underground fighter control centre, which now houses the War Rooms museum.
After his national service, Prof. Blouet went to the University of Hull, where he first read for his first degree and then obtained a PhD in geography.
"I needed a topic for my PhD thesis, so I returned to Malta and started work in the Archives of the Order at the National Library, which at the time was known as the Royal Malta Library," he said.
"I wrote a historical geography study on the landscape of Malta during the rule of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, 1530-1798. The PhD was completed in 1964, by which time I was teaching at the University of Sheffield. The London publisher Faber and Faber asked if I would be interested in contributing a book on Malta to their The Story Of... series.
"The Story of Malta originally appeared in 1967. Since then the book has been revised regularly and in 1981 it was taken up by Progress Press as a result of the initiative of Joe Tortell who came to Oxford when I was on research leave to suggest that Progress Press was the natural home for the book and they would keep it in print and revised over the long haul, and that has been the case," Prof. Blouet said.
A new edition of the book appeared in 2004 and recently it has been reprinted with some revisions and a full index. The reprint marks the 40th anniversary of the original publication.
Prof. Blouet has been to Malta several times and intends to visit again.
"The changes I've seen in Malta over the years, they have been remarkable. When I first came for national service the island was a fortress, a major Royal Naval base, and possessed operational airfields for the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. I was on the island again in the years running up to independence and watched with great interest the transformation of the economy as manufacturing and tourism were given increased emphasis.
"It has given me great pleasure to follow Malta's economic advance and her successful entry into the European Union. One of the questions I pose in The Story of Malta is: If the UK and Malta had integrated back in the 1950s, would Malta have entered the European community in 1973 along with Britain?"