The nation of Malta comprises three inhabited islands (Malta, Gozo, and Comino) and four smaller islands in the Mediterranean. The country’s agricultural soil is poor and depleted after being heavily farmed since ancient times, and as a result Malta has gone through a range of economic cycles throughout the last 1,000 years, with periods of acute poverty and serious crises.

The population on the islands of Malta and Gozo eked out a difficult existence from antiquity to early modern times because of the lack of fresh water and the limited capacity for agriculture. There was also political insecurity, with a large number of raids by Corsairs from North Africa. In 1530, the islands were given to the Knights Hospitaller, who set about fortifying Malta and Gozo, ...

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