The paper discusses two interrelated themes. From 1530 to 1798, the Order of St John, an international institution of the Church, played a significant role from its conventual base on central Mediterranean Malta—one that nourished a strong element of historical continuity within the wider context of a declining Mediterranean. This it did through its traditional twofold raison d’être—as a religious, charitable and Hospitaller Order with great expertise in medical knowledge and practice, and as a military institution whose traditional crusading zeal against Islam kept the ‘clash of civilisations’ alive. That is the first theme. The second theme concerns the concept of a declining Ottoman Empire and a declining Mediterranean. The paper argues against the idea that the collective impact of the great siege of Malta (1565) and the battle of Lepanto (1571) had marked the initial stage in the decline of the Ottoman Empire. It also claims that the decline of the sixteenth‐century Mediterranean needs revisiting. It was only a partial change for the worse. The great geographical discoveries succeeded in robbing the Middle Sea of its primacy in international economy and exchange but in the long term failed to uproot most of its other characteristic features.
Part of the book: Mediterranean Identities