This is a study of British policy for the governance of Malta and its implementation in the early period of British rule (1800-18132). Malta is an under-studied and early example of the “new imperial system”3 which was based on governance responsible to London, the refusal by the British to establish representative institutions and the continuation of the legal and constitutional system established prior to British occupation. Implementing this system in Malta proved very difficult. The political goals set for the British administration lacked coherence and were often poorly operationalised; further difficulties derived from inadequacies in the system for establishing and monitoring the standards of effective public administration. This article, first. surveys the new system and its intended benefits, before examining the political and constitutional context within Malta and, in particular, the deepening political division between the British and Maltese nationalists. This division resulted in a crisis of legitimacy in 1805-6 which, for a time, seriously de-stabilised British rule. The article continues with a discussion of how the continuity strategy, which continued the law and constitutional forms of the previous regime, further exacerbated problems for the British administration.