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An archaeology of comparative colonialism : material culture, institutions, and cultural change in Malta, c. AD 1530-1910

Russell Palmer UGent (2017)
abstract
Historical archaeology is a well-established sub-field of archaeological enquiry in the Anglophone world, yet, in many parts of Europe, it is only just starting to be developed. In Malta, archaeology has traditionally focused on earlier periods, especially those of Classical Antiquity and prehistory. In this study, post-1500 Malta form the “laboratory” through which the daily experiences of colonialism will be materially examined, provide a rare archaeological study of modern-world colonialism within Europe. In providing a detailed analysis of the material culture examined, the thesis includes the most detailed archaeological examination of life in post-1500 Malta, as well as the first characterisation post-1500 Maltese pottery. The last two decades have seen a steady rise in the interest of colonialism as an object of archaeological enquiry. During the same period, archaeological studies of institutions have proliferated. While many of the institutions explored are situated in colonial contexts, few studies have focused on the interconnection between colonialism and its institutions. In this thesis, it is argued that colonial institutions played an important role in structuring daily life, influencing more than just those “contained” within prisons, hospitals, or schools, and gave rise to spaces of control and resistance, acceptance and purposeful assimilation. They were arenas in which colonial policy and daily material practices of subversion and acquiescence became entangled, and they left none unchanged. Therefore, colonial institutions provide a strong analytical window through which the past processes and experiences of colonialism can be viewed. Three broad types of institution are considered: (i) economic institutions, in the form of the Maltese earthenware industry, agriculture and trade; (ii) institutions involved in regulating behaviour through imprisonment, which include detailed examinations of life in the prisons of the Roman Inquisition, and later incarceration at Corradino prison and the Osipzio; and (iii) military institutions, through the examples of galley life in the navy of the Order of St. John, and a British officers’ messhouse. The case studies presented derive from two periods of colonial rule in Malta: that of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1530–1798) and the first century of British rule (1800–c. 1910). The comparative approach taken here releases the project from the limitations of a simple diachronic study, enabling wider insights to be drawn regarding the materiality of colonialism, and thus broadening its relevance. Comparative studies of colonialism are not new to archaeology, but neither are they numerous. Colonial institutions are investigated through the integration of four main types of data: artefacts, graffiti, space, and documentary sources. The artefact assemblages included come from two excavated sites (one terrestrial, the other underwater), plus a field-walking survey. Together, the assemblages represent all the available archaeologically-recovered finds for post-medieval Malta. A large graffiti assemblage from the Inquisitor’s prison cells is examined alongside graffiti made by British army personnel. Spatial analysis draws on space-syntax theory, and is carried out with the aid of redrawn building plans. Documentary sources are integrated throughout. Integrating numerous kinds of evidence is not simple and not all sources are equally suited to answering the same kinds of questions. Due to the lack of published excavation reports, documentary evidence in the form of census data and pictorial representations has proved key to exploring Maltese material culture, and the variety of evidence enables each case study to be considered at multiple scales of analysis In presenting the case studies and drawing together the varied experiences of colonialism, it is intended that a multi-vocal and pluralistic interpretation is offered, in which colonial institutions are concluded to be not only materialisations of colonial power but also of sites in which conflicting facets of identity negotiation were played out through daily material practices. My approach borrows from traditions firmly rooted in European archaeology, but the overall approach is based on ideas and theoretical paradigms associated with Anglophone interpretive archaeology. Put simply, the evidence presented in this thesis is studied in order to elucidate and understand past human lives and experiences of colonialism.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
promoter
UGent and UGent
organization
year
type
dissertation
publication status
published
subject
keyword
Colonialism, post-medieval archaeology, prisons, military institutions, pottery, spatial access analysis
pages
XXII, 354 pages
publisher
Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
place of publication
Ghent, Belgium
defense location
Gent : Het Pand (zaal Sacristie)
defense date
2017-02-27 14:30
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
D1
additional info
document mentions 2016, but public defense was held in 2017
copyright statement
I have retained and own the full copyright for this publication
id
8510423
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-8510423
date created
2017-02-20 16:20:11
date last changed
2017-02-22 08:59:57
@phdthesis{8510423,
  abstract     = {Historical archaeology is a well-established sub-field of archaeological enquiry in the Anglophone world, yet, in many parts of Europe, it is only just starting to be developed. In Malta, archaeology has traditionally focused on earlier periods, especially those of Classical Antiquity and prehistory. In this study, post-1500 Malta form the {\textquotedblleft}laboratory{\textquotedblright} through which the daily experiences of colonialism will be materially examined, provide a rare archaeological study of modern-world colonialism within Europe. In providing a detailed analysis of the material culture examined, the thesis includes the most detailed archaeological examination of life in post-1500 Malta, as well as the first characterisation post-1500 Maltese pottery.
The last two decades have seen a steady rise in the interest of colonialism as an object of archaeological enquiry. During the same period, archaeological studies of institutions have proliferated. While many of the institutions explored are situated in colonial contexts, few studies have focused on the interconnection between colonialism and its institutions. In this thesis, it is argued that colonial institutions played an important role in structuring daily life, influencing more than just those {\textquotedblleft}contained{\textquotedblright} within prisons, hospitals, or schools, and gave rise to spaces of control and resistance, acceptance and purposeful assimilation. They were arenas in which colonial policy and daily material practices of subversion and acquiescence became entangled, and they left none unchanged. Therefore, colonial institutions provide a strong analytical window through which the past processes and experiences of colonialism can be viewed.
Three broad types of institution are considered: (i) economic institutions, in the form of the Maltese earthenware industry, agriculture and trade; (ii) institutions involved in regulating behaviour through imprisonment, which include detailed examinations of life in the prisons of the Roman Inquisition, and later incarceration at Corradino prison and the Osipzio; and (iii) military institutions, through the examples of galley life in the navy of the Order of St. John, and a British officers{\textquoteright} messhouse. The case studies presented derive from two periods of colonial rule in Malta: that of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1530--1798) and the first century of British rule (1800--c. 1910). The comparative approach taken here releases the project from the limitations of a simple diachronic study, enabling wider insights to be drawn regarding the materiality of colonialism, and thus broadening its relevance. Comparative studies of colonialism are not new to archaeology, but neither are they numerous. 
Colonial institutions are investigated through the integration of four main types of data: artefacts, graffiti, space, and documentary sources. The artefact assemblages included come from two excavated sites (one terrestrial, the other underwater), plus a field-walking survey. Together, the assemblages represent all the available archaeologically-recovered finds for post-medieval Malta. A large graffiti assemblage from the Inquisitor{\textquoteright}s prison cells is examined alongside graffiti made by British army personnel. Spatial analysis draws on space-syntax theory, and is carried out with the aid of redrawn building plans. Documentary sources are integrated throughout. Integrating numerous kinds of evidence is not simple and not all sources are equally suited to answering the same kinds of questions. Due to the lack of published excavation reports, documentary evidence in the form of census data and pictorial representations has proved key to exploring Maltese material culture, and the variety of evidence enables each case study to be considered at multiple scales of analysis
In presenting the case studies and drawing together the varied experiences of colonialism, it is intended that a multi-vocal and pluralistic interpretation is offered, in which colonial institutions are concluded to be not only materialisations of colonial power but also of sites in which conflicting facets of identity negotiation were played out through daily material practices. My approach borrows from traditions firmly rooted in European archaeology, but the overall approach is based on ideas and theoretical paradigms associated with Anglophone interpretive archaeology. Put simply, the evidence presented in this thesis is studied in order to elucidate and understand past human lives and experiences of colonialism.},
  author       = {Palmer, Russell},
  keyword      = {Colonialism,post-medieval archaeology,prisons,military institutions,pottery,spatial access analysis},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {XXII, 354},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {An archaeology of comparative colonialism : material culture, institutions, and cultural change in Malta, c. AD 1530-1910},
  year         = {2017},
}

Chicago
Palmer, Russell. 2017. “An Archaeology of Comparative Colonialism : Material Culture, Institutions, and Cultural Change in Malta, C. AD 1530-1910”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
APA
Palmer, Russell. (2017). An archaeology of comparative colonialism : material culture, institutions, and cultural change in Malta, c. AD 1530-1910. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Palmer R. An archaeology of comparative colonialism : material culture, institutions, and cultural change in Malta, c. AD 1530-1910. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2017.
MLA
Palmer, Russell. “An Archaeology of Comparative Colonialism : Material Culture, Institutions, and Cultural Change in Malta, C. AD 1530-1910.” 2017 : n. pag. Print.