Sarangu’s World: The role of French war prisoners in the 1813 Malta Bubonic plague

The Bubonic Plague was increasing at such an alarming rate that its death trail was starting to include servants, people responsible to purify the infected houses and gravediggers. Leaving no one to care for the victims. 

The British Government resorted to using French prisoners for such chores. In 1813 Malta had around 900 French prisoners as a result from the various conflicts between the British and French Empires. 

The Government offered freedom to the French prisoners in exchange for serving within the Public Health Authority. 

Immediately, 60 French prisoners offered their services. Within two weeks they were almost all dead. 

A new call was made. This time, the prisoners were more reluctant to accept the offer. 

For those who took the chance the same fate awaited them. 

During this period, the French inmates were responsible for looting, rape and theft.

Apainting by Pietro Paolo Caruana showing people receiving the Holy Eucarist during the plague of 1813. The painting also records the French inmates during this period.

PT2: Snippets of the 1813 Bubonic Plague

Sarangu’s World is supported by Arts Council Malta – Malta Arts Fund