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Illegitimacy in Valletta

I very much look forward to reading Thomas Freller’s book on the steamier side of Maltese social history under the Order (‘New light on spicier side of Malta’s history’, November 9).

I would like to make a comment that may be of interest to readers. It is all a question of scale and maintaining a sense of proportion.

Back in the 1970s, the Department of History at the University organised a series of research projects for mature students (mainly teachers) taking a BA General through evening lectures etc. Teams of these students were asked to research given periods of years of baptismal, marriage and death records in the villages and towns. Some very fine analytical work was produced in the theses they submitted and they transcribed some thousands of entries in the parish records onto standard forms.

One group studied the baptismal records of the parish of Porto Salvo (St Dominic’s) in Valletta. The infants registered included the baptisms of illegitimate children left at the hospital of the Order. The period studied (if I recall correctly) ran from the early 1790s to the end of the second decade of the 19th century. A graph of the annual numbers of these ‘children of the hospital’ was pretty steady until 1798 (during the rule of the Order). It dropped for the period 1798 to 1800 (the French Occupation) and then went through the roof (literally) when the British took over.

A copy of the thesis should be available to scholars at the University library as also the transcripts.

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