During the nineteenth century Malta was ruled by a British Governor, assisted by a Council of Government. After 1849 the Council included elected members. In 1887 the elected members were given a majority of seats. Nationalist candidates committed to the defence of Italian, the language of the island’s traditional social elite, were almost unfailingly elected. Conflict between the elected majority and the governor over the language question led to the suspension of the constitution. In 1903 a Council of Government was introduced in which elected members were in a minority. Nationalist members were regularly returned, often unopposed (Dobie, 1967: 38–79).
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