A set of 19 drawings depicting the execution of slaves in the aftermath of the revolt of 1749 will be publicly exhibited for the first time at the launch of Professor William Zammit’s latest book, which sheds new, intriguing light on the conspiracy.
Originally totalling 24, these drawings were passed on to the Malta Museum around 1909/10 by J.R. Barlow and were inherited by Heritage Malta when it replaced the Department of Museums in 2003. Professor Zammit’s research prompted the cleaning and restoration of the drawings, carried out by Heritage Malta’s Conservation Laboratories. They are the handiwork of an artist whose identity is yet unknown but who must have witnessed the gruesome events, given the detail and the historical accuracy depicted.
The slaves’ revolt, masterminded by Mustafa, the Pasha of Rhodes, was planned for the 29th of June 1749 and was to be implemented by Muslim slaves in Malta at the time. Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca was to be assassinated, imprisoned Muslim slaves were to be freed, Malta was to be invaded and a large percentage of the population would be enslaved. However, these plans were leaked to the Order, the plotters were arrested and tortured, and many of them were executed.
Professor William Zammit’s new book, Slavery, Treason and Blood, is the outcome of his research at the Archivio Apostolico Vaticano in Rome, where he discovered and transcribed a batch of letters exchanged between the Inquisitor of Malta and the Vatican Secretary of State at the time. What makes this correspondence unique is its freshness, since the letters were written as events were evolving.
The book – the fourth in an exclusive series of Heritage Malta monographs – goes well beyond the plot and the letters, offering socio-political, religious and cultural insight into notions of slavery in the early-modern age, the motivations for rebellion, and the probabilities of success. With regard to illustrations, it includes the set of drawings that will be exhibited at the launch.
This event will be held on Friday 24th March at 19:30, at the Gran Salon of the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Admission is free but pre-booking is required, either by going in person to any Heritage Malta museum or site, or through this link.
Professor William Zammit’s book may be purchased here.
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