This introductory chapter offers a short history of the Hospital of St John from its foundation in the 11th century to the siege of Malta in 1565, looking at its organisation, its Hospitaller and spiritual functions, its administration and defence of Rhodes and the Dodecanese, its role in the crusades, and its ejection from Rhodes and relocation to Malta. It is followed by an introduction to the organisation of the Hospitaller priories of England and Ireland, their position in society, and to the role of the English langue in the order's central convent in the east. There is also a discussion of the documentary sources for the langue's history in Malta and the British Isles, together with an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing secondary literature concerning the order's history and archaeology.
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