Nationalism and the Falkland Islands War

By Chris Kozloski

For Political Geography
GEOG 425-G
Dr. Keeling


"I am not negotiating the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands with anyone, they are British." (Margaret Thatcher, Christmas 1984 radio broadcast to the Falkland Islands, quoted in the Daily Telegraph, 27, Dec. 1984 )

"Argentinean Sovereignty over the Malivinas is not negotiable. That is the starting point of negotiation." (Dante Caputo, Argentine Foreign Minister, 13 November, 1983. Quoted in House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, 1983-4, Report, Vol. 2, p 149)

(Beck 1988, p 137)

On April 2, 1982, the Argentinean military seized control of the Falkland Islands and their dependencies, culminating a sovereignty dispute with the British government that had lasted nearly 150 years. In the months to come, the world would bear witness to a bloody struggle, costing hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in military equipment, as the British assembled an armada and retook the islands. Prior to this invasion, however, were 14 years of intense diplomatic maneuvering as the Argentineans and British attempted to find a peaceful solution to the issue of the island's sovereignty. What were the causes of the failure of these negotiations and why, in the face of British apathy to the region, did the Argentineans throw away their diplomatic efforts and resort to the military solution? It is the purpose of this paper to examine these reasons and try to examine the role of zealous nationalism as a causal effect on the war. My working hypotheses for this paper is as follows: The diplomatic efforts directed to the resolution of the Falkland Island sovereignty dispute broke down through of the effect of zealous nationalism on the part of one or both parties. The alternate hypothesis simply states that nationalism played no part in the breakdown of sovereignty negotiations. Before I proceed to analyze the dispute to determine the effect nationalism played. I will first give a brief history of the Falkland conflict. I have divided it into several sections, each representing a different event in the history of the dispute that lead to the 1982 conflict.


The Falkland / Malivinas Islands lie in a position 480 miles northeast of Cape Horn, 300 miles from South America, and 7000 miles from Britain (Beck 1988, p 1). The earliest confirmed discovery of the islands was by the Dutchman, Sebald de Weert on Jan 24, 1600 (Beck 1988, p 36). Each side in the current conflict over the island has its own independent claims of first discovery. Britain claims precedental discoveries of the islands by John Davis of the British ship Desire on August 14, 1592, and by Sir Richard Hawkins on theDainty, in February of 1594. The Argentineans argue that the islands were most likely discovered by Spain, citing Spanish dominance of the region in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and by the depiction of the Malivinas on charts from the Spanish navigators, Pedro Reinell in 1522-3, Diego Rivero in the 1520's and Diego Gutierrez in 1561. (Beck 1988, p 62)

Unfortunately, all of the disputed claims are unconfirmed. Most of the British logs are unclear as to the Falklands exact location and Sir Hawkins claims to have seen campfires on shore during the time the islands were uninhabited (Beck 1988, p 35-36). The Argentinean claims are no more solid due to the crudity of the maps of the period and the incompleteness of the historical records for the time. Consequently, although both sides are quick to point their respective claims, even the Argentineans conceded that Sebald De Weert is generally accepted as the islands' discoverer (Beck 1988, p 63).

The Spanish Claim

In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht, the Pope gave control of all land to the west of the 40° W meridian to Spain while all land to the east was given to Portugal. Under this treaty, the Falkland Islands clearly fell into Spanish territory and thus had their first legal claim of European possession.

French / English Period

On Jan 27, 1690, Captain John Strond, of the British ship Welfare , made the first confirmed landing on the Falklands, naming the sound between the islands after Lord of the Admiralty Viscount Falkland (Beck 1988, p 38). The Island's proximity to the approaches to the Straits of Magellan and the Tierra del Fuego soon gained the attention of the Admiralty, prompting Lord Anson of Britain, to state " [The islands] even in time of peace might be of great consequence to the nation and in time of war would make us masters of the seas" in 1740 (Hastings p 2). The French, meanwhile, were moving to exploit the same advantages and on April 5, 1764, the French Nobleman Antoine de Bougainville landed on East Falklands and founded the settlement Port Louis. Here, he built a small fort and settlement and replenished it for a year emphasizing its permanence as as settlement (Hastings p 2).

In 1765 , Commodore John Byron of Britain landed on the West Falklands. Here he claimed the island and named the landing site Port Egmont. He then planted a vegetable patch and sailed away (Hastings p 2). The British returned in 1766 when Captain John McBride consolidated the landing with a fort and soldiers. The British quickly set out to explore and soon encountered the French at Port Louis (Hastings p 3). Consequently, the Spanish were informed of Port Louis by the British in hope of breaking the French-Spanish alliance against Britain in Europe.

Spanish / English Period

In 1767, in order to honor the treaty of Utrecht and avoid conflict with its ally Spain, France transferred the control of Port Louis to the Spanish. Port Louis was renamed Puerto Soledad and placed under the Governor Don Felipe Ruiz Puente, by the Captain General of Buenos Aires (Hastings p 3). On June 9, 1770, the Spanish sent 5 frigates and 1400 men to remove the British from Port Egmont. The British surrendered on June 10, precipitating the first Falkland crisis. The British and Spanish eventually resolved their differences without bloodshed, as Spain's financial problems and Britian's growing troubles with her 13 colonies in North America made military action in the South Atlantic undesirable (Beck 1988, p 39-40, Hastings p 4). Agreeing not to stay permanently, the British were allowed to return, although neither state recognized each others sovereignty (Hastings p 4). On May 20, 1774, The British abandoned Port Egmont due to its high cost and the need to send the garrison to the 13 American colonies. They did not give up their claim of sovereignty over the island , and left a plaque reading:

"Be it known to all nations that Falkland Ysland, with this fort, the storehouses, wharfs...are the sole right and property of His Most Sacred Majesty George III, King of Great Britain." (Beck 1988, p 41,Hastings p 4).

The Spanish soon burned the empty settlement and settled down for a period of sole occupation in the islands.

From 1774 to 1811, Spain had control of the Falklands. During this time the British did not claim possession of the islands nor did they file a protest against the burning of Port Egmont (Beck 1988, p 65-66). In 1790, the British signed the Nootka Sound Convention and formally renounced any colonial ambition in South America "And the islands adjacent" (Hastings p 4). These events are vitally important in the origins of the conflict, for it is during this time the Argentineans claim that the British let lapse their claim to the Malivinas. The British state that in no way did their signing dismiss any of their current claims to sovereignty.

In 1810 the Spanish withdrew settlers from the islands and Patagonia as revolutionary stirrings appeared in the Argentinean mainland. Like the British, as Spain withdrew on February 7, 1811, they left a plaque retaining rights and sovereignty to the islands. The Plaque read :

" The island with its ports, buildings dependencies...belongs to the sovereignty of His Majesty, Fernando VII...King of Spain and the Indies. (Beck 1988, p 66) "

This left the islands without government and they soon fell to an anarchical system amongst the whalers, sealers, sheep farmers, and convicts who remained behind (Hastings p 4).

Argentinean Period

In 1820, The United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, the predecessor to the state of Argentina, claimed the Malivinas as their own (Hastings p 3). They based this claim under rights of succession, as the Malivinas were former territory of Spain lost when the UPRP gained independence. Still unrecognized by the other world powers, Argentina appointed Louis Vernet as the Malivinas' first governor in 1823 (Hastings p 3).

In 1829, the Argentineans seized a US ship The Harriet for illegal sealing. The ship and captain were sailed to Buenos Aires for trial where the American Consul (encouraged by the British) took offense. The USS Lexington was sent to reclaim the seized seal skins from Puerto Soledad, and once there, its captain, Silas Duncan, recovered the skins, arrested most of the inhabitants, sacked the city, spiked the Argentine guns and blew up the powder in the fort. He then declared the island free of government and left the island in chaos (Hastings p 5). The Argentineans quickly sent a replacement governor to attempt to retain order, but he was murdered by the remaining Argentineans (Hastings p 5) and the island fell into a state of anarchy again, with no government.

English Period (1833-1965)

Seizing on this opportunity in 1833, the British landed troops from the Tyne and Clio and encountered an Argentinean Frigate that was attempting suppress the rebellion on the island. The Argentinean frigate withdrew "under protest" and returned to Buenos Aires. In 1842, Britain declared the Falklands a colony raising the first of many Argentinean objections to the occupation. (Hastings p 7) In the 1880's Argentina repeatedly requested the islands be returned but was denied as the British claimed they simply were reinstating their claim of the islands made in 1765 and referred to the plaque left on their departure (Hastings p 7). The fact that the British never let their claim lapse further justified their occupation in their eyes. Argentina disputed the annexation as an illegal act of colonialism, citing their claim and governance for the past 13 years, Spain's longer claim over the islands, their rights of succession claim, and the plaque the Spanish left on their departure. Unfortunately, they did not have the power to remove the British and the British have held the islands ever since. This argument continues to be a major point of contention in the modern conflict over sovereignty.

In 1908, the British declared sovereignty over uninhabited territory south of the Falklands and consolidated them into the Falkland Islands Dependencies. This included South Georgia, the South Sandwich, Orkney and Shetland Islands, and Grahm Land on the Antarctic peninsula. Argentina contested all of these claims as her own territory, but again could not do anything to resist the British, then in the hey-day of their world power (Hastings p 7).

From 1933-1965 Britain steadfastly ignored Argentinean requests for the return of the islands to their sovereignty. Unable to challenge Britain directly, Argentina sent its quarrel to the Universal Postal Union (UPU) refusing to recognize British stamps claiming the Falkland Islands, issuing its own stamps claiming the island (which Britain protested) and disrupting rates on postage carried through its territory (Beck 1988, p 89-91). This achieved little to regain the islands but it kept the dispute in the public eye and showed the Argentinean determination to not relinquish their claim to the islands. During the two World Wars, Lord Anson's prophecy from 1740 proved to be true when the islands featured as major factors in the naval wars of the South Atlantic. In December 1914, The Battle of the Falkland Islands, fought between Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee of the Royal Navy, and Admiral Spee of Germany was a British victory for the squadron basing from the islands (Irving p 3). The World War II Battle of the River Plate resulted in Graf Spee's defeat again by the British, who used Port Stanley as a base for repair, refueling and restoring (Irving p 3). The military importance of the islands effectively halted talks on sovereignty between the 2 countries. The Argentineans simply took their protests to the less volatile UPU as stated above.

After siding with the Axis in WWII Argentina was set apart from the Pan-American movement that swept the post war region. This isolation inspired the Argentinean feeling of independence and a feeling of intense Argentinean nationalism was fostered under the leadership of Colonel Juan Peron when he came to power in 1945 and began his 3 decade rule (Hastings p 8). Soon Argentina was reopening border disputes with Chile in Antarctica and the South Atlantic islands (Hastings p 8). In 1959, The Antarctic Treaty demilitarized Antarctica. When the British narrowed their Falkland dependency claims to the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Group, Argentina again protested and reopened their sovereignty claim again to be repulsed by the British as the islanders had made clear indications they wished to remain British (Hastings p 8). The Argentineans still couldn't take the islands by force and hope to hold them against the Royal Navy, so they started to teach "The Malivinas are ours" in schools to stir up nationalistic feelings towards their occupation. Soon "Repossession was not a a matter of legal or diplomatic nicety. It was a challenge to national honor" (Hastings p 9)

The UN Acts

Frustrated by Britain's lack of interest in resolving the sovereignty dispute the Argentineans took their case to the United Nations in August, 1964. Lord Caradon, British representative to the UN, declared "The interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount." The rights of the islanders to self determination lay squarely within the terms of Article 73 of the UN charter (Dunnett p 418-419, Hastings p 15). Britain soon found herself in a crisis over the independence of Rhodesia and with the support of Spain, who was in a similar dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar and had supported the Argentinean claim based on its former ownership, the issue was again raised (Hastings p 15). In the hostile atmosphere of the UN, filled with former colonial countries, UN resolution 2065 was passed in December of 1965 charging Britain and Argentina to "proceed without delay with negotiations...with a view of finding a peaceful solution to the problem." (Hastings p 15) This resolution finally gave credence to Argentina's claim and further fed its own nationalistic sense of injustice (Hastings p 16). The issue of sovereignty now had to be addressed by the British and couldn't be ignored.

Secret Negotiations

Britain now found herself in an uncomfortable position. The Falkland Islanders had made it clear they did not wish to fall under Argentinean sovereignty as they were British and wished to keep their British way of life. The UN mandate required progress and the Argentineans refused negotiations that did not involve the issue of sovereignty. The talks were started in 1966 and were held in secret by the foreign office. In order to keep emotionality out of the negotiations neither the islanders nor Parliament were consulted (Hastings p 17). By September 1967 the talks were between foreign ministers Brown and Costa Mendes and had produced an Argentinean agreement to allow customs and lifestyle to continue uninterrupted on the Islands as long as the Argentineans had sovereignty. Britain would concede as long as a package of safeguards and economic improvements could be guaranteed (Hastings p 18).

In February 1968, disaster struck when the secret talks were leaked to the islanders. By March 26, the Islanders lobbying group, the Falkland Island Committee had raised the House of Commons into such an uproar, that the new Foreign minister, Michael Stewart, was forced to state concession of sovereignty would occur "only if it were clear to us...that the islanders themselves regarded such an agreement as satisfactory to their interests." This essentially gave the islanders a veto and rendered all previous negotiations moot (Hastings p 20). On December 11, 1968, Stewart categorically announced "that no transfer could be made against the wishes of the islanders" (Hastings p 21) When Lord Chalfont visited the Islands with the result of of the negotiations on November 28, 1968, the treaty was killed by the islanders when they expressed their wish to remain British (Beck 1985, p 657).

Hearts and Minds

The islands, now seen as a political land mine, were downgraded in 1970 to the responsibility of the Under Secretary of Dependent Territories, David Scott (Hastings p 21-22). Negotiations now shifted to an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Islanders as they ultimately held the key to sovereignty. To do this a new emphasis was placed on encouraging lines of communication with the mainland so the islanders would see the benefits of the near shore link to the world and start to have more contact with the Argentineans. This hopefully would allow the islanders to start feeling more South American than British. It also avoided the inflammatory issue of sovereignty, so there was a chance of actual progress in the negotiations.

Word soon came that in 1971 the supply ship for the Falklands, the Darwin was to be withdrawn as it was loosing money. This would leave only a quarterly run by the ship AES to provide supplies and transport to the islands. A new transportation link was needed to the islands and it was determined an air link from Argentina would be the best solution (Hastings p 22). The Communications Agreement with Beunos Aires was passed in 1971 to address the problem. It stated the British would build an airstrip and provide a shipping link to the mainland if the Argentineans would run the air service. Argentinean customs agents would consider the islanders to be neither British nor Argentinean and the Falklanders were not to be held liable for taxes if they entered Argentinean space (Hastings p 22-23). Unfortunately, when the agreement was implemented the British didn't establish the sea link and the runway ran over costand bogged down due to lack of funds. The Argentineans took over the building of the airport when the British money was not forthcoming they began to view the lack of funds as a backsliding in the commitment to the Falklands by the British (Hastings p 25-26). The Argentineans then opened the air link under military control instead of civilian control. This alarmed the Islanders and the level of anxiety over the Communications Agreement began to rise. (Hastings p 25-26)

In 1972, Peron, who had been exiled to Madrid by the regime of General Organia, was allowed back into the country and by 1973 he was back in power. The Argentineans then abandoned the Organia regeimes hearts and minds policy, and brought sovereignty back out into the forefront of debate. The dreaded "s-word" prompted the reformation of the Falkland Island Committee and hard line nationalism again wedged the two sides apart (Hastings p 27).

In 1974 two amendments to the Communications Agreement with Beunos Aires allowed the Argentineans exclusive provision of the islands fuel oil and permitted the staffing of the fuel depot with Argentinean military personal (Hastings p 27). Inspired by these concessions, In Jan 1975, the Argentineans declared all Falklanders to be Argentinean citizens. Now the only way the Falklanders could get on or off the island was through the transport of people who were "the enemy". The British didn't protest, even though this was a clear violation of the Communications Agreement with Beunos Aires (Hastings p 28). The Argentineans were now convinced that the British commitment to the islands were falling rapidly.

The Shakleton Report

In 1975 The British attempted to try to solve the problem again. They appointed Lord Shakleton who proposed a plan that painted a rosy future for the Islanders if they would settle their differences with Argentina (Hastings p 28). Meanwhile, following the death of Peron, Argentina suffered a coup that placed another military dictatorship in power (Hastings p 28). This is the infamous regime now well known for its torture centers and disappearances of political rivals.

In January of 1976, Lord Shakleton prepared to fly to the Falklands to tell to the islanders about his plan, but the Argentineans refuse to let him fly through Argentina. Consequently, Shakleton sailed to Falklands and then to South Georgia to promote his plan. In protest the Argentineans severed diplomatic relations. On February 4, 1976, the arctic survey ship RRS Shakleton was ordered to stop by the Argentinean frigate Almirante Storni for sailing in "Argentinean waters" 78 miles south of the Falklands. The captain refused, and shots were fired across his bows as the frigate chased him to within 6 miles of Stanley (Beck 1988, p 3). In response, the British diverted a frigate to the region further heightening tensions (Hastings p 29).

When Shakleton finally arrived at the Falklands, the islanders approved his proposal and plans for enlarging the runway were undertaken. Unfortunately the necessary money for the plan was simply never going to materialize as the proposal called for £13 million and the Falkland budget was only £1 million with the ODA protesting every penny (Hastings p 30). The plan hit ground soon thereafter due to lack of funds. The islands simply didn't rank high enough on the British priority list to warrant an increase in funds of the scale requested in the Shakleton plan. Argentina would have to contribute money to the plan if there was to be a chance for it to work.

The new dictatorship in Argentina unfortunately was backing strongly away from diplomacy. In 1976, It had come up with the Plan Goa for taking the Malivinas. This was inspired by the Indian seizure of the Portuguese colony of Goa in 1961 (Hastings p 31). In late 1976, the Argentineans covertly placed 50 "technicians" on Southern Thule in the South Sandwich Island group. The British did not respond to this invasion of their territory except to cancel the proposed removal of The Endurance , the last British ship based in the antarctic (Hastings p 32). As a result of the deteriorating political relations, in February 1977, the Shakleton Report was killed in Parliament, because the development of the islands would have to have the joint cooperation of the Islanders, Britain and Argentina. The current political atmosphere was incondusive until diplomatic relations resumed and the Argentineans answered for their human rights indiscretions (Hastings p 32-33). The British now looked to develop the Falklands themselves as they couldn't possibly turn them over to the "torturers in Buenos Aires" (Hastings p 30).

Lease back

Still haunted by the UN resolution, in February 1977 the Rowlands phase of negotiations opened, eventually resulting in the prospect for either a transfer and lease back settlement, or a condominium arrangement between England and Argentina (Hastings p 34). Unfortunately, high level talks were not forthcoming as no MP wanted to face the political consequences of "Selling the Islanders up the River Platte". Consequently, in September, 1979, Foreign Minister Brigadier Pastor of Argentina told Foreign Minister Lord Carrington of Britain that although the islands may be a low priority to the British they were a high priority to Argentina (Beck 1988, p 7). Talks stalled nonetheless, until the lease back option was adopted by Nicholas Ridley, the new man in charge of negotiations when Margaret Thatcher came into power (Hastings p 37). Unfortunately the lease back plan was savaged in the House of Commons on December 2, 1979 (Hastings p 40). As a result, in February 1981, Ridley told the Argentineans in the UN that a political deal with Great Britain was off the agenda and they would have to negotiate with the Islanders directly if they were pursue the sovereignty issue on their own (Hastings p 41).


By July of 1981, Argentina was again protesting the lack of progress with the UN sovereignty mandate. Britain reiterated its position that sovereignty rested on the approval of the islanders who quickly voted a total opposition to any secession of sovereignty to the Argentineans (Hastings p 41).

Meanwhile, under the pressure of severe budget cutbacks Britain continued their implementation of a slow demilitarization policy in their colonial possessions in the South Atlantic. This reduction of the flag in the region, compounded by the overall reduction of the British Imperial Military, specifically the reductions in the navy and the removal of the aircraft carriers and assault ships from the inventory, was starting to cause a shift in the balance of power in the South Atlantic. The Argentineans were finally getting to a point where they might be able to retake the islands, and hold them if the British decided to counterattack.

In the spring of 1981, the Ministry of Defense pushed through a plan to withdraw the Endurance , from the South Atlantic. This removed the only permanent Royal Naval presence in the South Atlantic, and severely curtailed the ability of the British to resupply their Falkland dependency and Antarctic possessions.

Shortly thereafter, the British Nationality Bill was passed, stating that British colonists could only be allowed into Britain if they had patrial status-one grandparent born in Britain. This legislation was aimed at controlling immigration from Hong Kong but it also affected the Falklands and Gibraltar. A special amendment was passed, making an exception in the bill for Gibraltar, but the Falklands were not included when their amendment failed to pass by a small margin of votes. (Hastings)

These actions held great value in the eyes of the Argentineans. The reduction of the British military in the South Atlantic, compounded by the lack of response to the earlier acts of aggression in the South Sandwich Islands and the removal of citizen rights for a large portion of the islanders, confirmed there was a lessening in the British commitment in the region. At this point the Junta begin their plan to invade the Malivinas, hoping to capitalize on the diplomatic gridlock to quell mobs in the streets demanding new elections. After escalating pressure in the UN and instigating a crisis in South Georgia over illegal scrap iron salvagers, the argentinians invaded on April 2 1982, destroying the years of negotiations and permanently changing the face of the dispute to the state it is in at the present.

Post Invasion policies and the future

The result of the invasion of the Islands was a 3 month war and the destruction of all diplomatic progress on the succession issue before the invasion. In the words of a Falkland Islander writing of the islands after the war: "The invasion has completely destroyed any return to the negotiations as they were before April 2." (Strange p 35) Having the power of veto, this sentiment defines the British position and has lead to the stalemate that inspired the quotes in which I opened this paper.

Currently, there are many future plans that attempt to solve the Falkland Island problem. I will not go into detail as each of these is worth many articles by itself, but the solutions range from a Fortress Falklands, the current policy, to Integration of the islands with Britain, Independence, A NATO or SATO-Based Multilateral security council to govern the island, UN Trusteeship, Inclusion of the islands in the Antarctic Treaty, taking the case to the International Court, a British-Argentinean condominium, Shared Dual Sovereignty, Lease back with Guarantees, Sovereignty Freeze, Abandonment, and finally, Titular Sovereignty and Autonomy based on the Åland Island model (Beck 1985, p 646, Beck 1988, p 143-160). The most promising plan to date is the Lease back with guarantees option. This option has a history of success based upon the Hong-Kong model, and it would require guarantees of the Islander's rights to be made by Argentina before the treaty is signed. This would eliminate uncertainties of what would happen upon the termination of the lease back and the removal of British control of the islands. (Beck 1985, p 651) Currently this is the option diplomats are following, although the islanders and the British are both waiting to see if the current wave of democracy in Argentina will remain stable or deteriorate back to dictatorship before they sign off on the lease back.

Analysis of Nationalisms Influence.

Nationalism has played a major part in the history of the Falkland island crisis. Nationalism is when a person or people identify themselves with a national identity based on an ethnic foundation. The Islanders, who are descended from British subjects, identify themselves to be British in nationality, while the Argentineans descended from the Spanish, Italians, and Germans, perceive themselves to be Argentinean or even Latin American in identity. This national association has led to a sharp contrast in the type of culture found in the islands and the mainland, and has inspired the Islander's isolationism from Argentina in order to preserve their own unique culture. It is through this conflict of attitudes, that the negotiations for the sovereignty of the islands have been forced to muddle on. Eventually, one side or the other has put a halt to the diplomacy through their own nationalistic trepidations.

British Nationalism

It can be stated that British Nationalism, in the framework of colonialism, was the first example of nationalism in the cause of the conflict. In 1740, Lord Anson of Britain declared the reasons for Britian's ambitions in the region: [The islands] "even in time of peace might be of great consequence to the nation and in time of war would make us masters of the seas" (Hastings p 2). This was said during the peak of British colonialism where control of Cape Horn was a matter of international prestige and pride. This Nationalistic viewpoint, that which drove the political thought of the 18th and 19th centuries, was the main reason for the initial occupation of the islands by the British, and even more so the reason for the subsequent reclamations of the islands from the Argentineans. Therefore, the root cause of the entire conflict, the seizure of the islands from Argentina in 1833, was a direct cause of nationalism.

During the 1982 conflict, the British government was almost certainly controlled by nationalism when they sent the armada to retake the islands. Economically the islands were becoming a drain on the treasury, and politically Britain was trying to sever herself from her colonial past to concentrate more on the EC and NATO in the Eurocentric atmosphere of the early 1980's. The crisis of invasion made the armada a necessity because if the British hadn't responded militarily, the internal nationalistic uproar of its own subjects would have unhinged the current regime (Beck 1988, p 13, 17) especially in the face of the failed Suez Operation in the 1960's (Beck 1988, p 19). Consequently, the British sent the task force as a result of wounded national pride, a political need to save face, and an "Escape valve for the strong feelings against the invasion" (Collier p 462).

Islander Nationalism

Margaret Thatcher - The Falklanders loyalty to Britain is fantastic. If they wish to stay British we must stand by them..." (Dunnett p 415)

The People of the Falkland islands...have the right to determine their own allegiance. (Dunnett p 415)

In just two of the many quotes from British politicians, we come across the crux of the nationalistic contribution of the islanders to the problems that continually derailed the talks between Britain and Argentina. Sovereignty. The Falkland Island Committees March 26, 1968, victory in Parliament that gained the islanders the final word in all negotiations, was the start of a series of roadblocks, thrown up by the islanders who had no desire to become Argentinean. The secret negotiations of the 60's were stopped on November 28, 1968, by the islanders when they expressed their wish to remain British. The hearts and minds section of the negotiations fell through in 1973 when the Falkland Island Committee rallied Parliament against the sovereignty concessions demanded by the Argentineans, and in 1979, Ridley was savaged in the House of Commons ruining the promising lease back option he had presented because again it would have ceded sovereignty. The islanders nationalistic desire to remain British was behind all of these defeats, and when Argentina made it last peaceful protest in July of 1981 their final word in negotiations, again put down a solution in favor of the status quo.

Argentinean Nationalism

The case of nationalism as a cause of the war is just as strong against the Argentineans as it is against the British and the Islanders. The Argentineans see the recovery of the Malivinas as "nothing less than the nations encounter with it's national destiny (Collier p 460). In addition, it is quite probable that an alternate reason for the Argentineans taking the Falklands was as an attempt to stand as a champion for Latin America against British colonialism and the European power geopolitics that have exploited the region for years (Collier p 463). Argentina also sees herself as becoming the major power in South America. This line of thought is driven by geopolitical factors that facilitate Argentina's control of the South Atlantic between the mainland and Antarctica. The occupation of the Falkland Island Dependencies and the British Antarctica claims, would improve Argentina's role as "Gatekeeper between the Atlantic and pacific". It would also serve to neutralize British ambitions in the area, and improve their strategic position against Chile. (Beck 1988, p 72-73)

The debate over Falklands policies between England and Argentina has been exasperated by the Argentineans own nationalistic views of the history of events that lead to the conflict. (Beck 1988, p 29-34) Argentines propagandisation of history and its geopolitical status in its education systems are main hindrances in their ability to engage in rational discussion with Britain over the islands (Beck 1988, p 76). The ability of the Argentineans to change the propagandisation of their historical claims is distilled by their Nationalistic views, tainted by past teachings. The reversal of this unfortunate situation will be slow in the coming as indicated by the fact that the earliest historically impartial Argentinean paper was never published in Spanish and another paper that was published brought out cries of protest to the Ministry of Education. (Beck 1988, p 79) Nationalism abounds in Argentina and it is a fact that is hard to dispute.

The result of this nationalism was 150 years of constant protests and demonstrations that the Malivinas Islands were Argentinean and that they would never give up their claim to them. It is actually amazing to see how the Argentineans have managed to maintain such intensity in their opposition to the British rule , especially after such a long period of occupation. Nationalism definitely has played a part in this example of political determination.

Unfortunately, as with the other groups in the conflict, extreme nationalism has caused many of the diplomatic breakdowns in the Falkland sovereignty negotiations. The Argentineans Peronist revival in 1973, unhinged the hearts and minds negotiations when it demanded that sovereignty be brought back to the forefront of negotiations. This scared the islanders and gave the Falkland Island Committee the ammunition it needed to kill the negotiations in Parliament. The Shakleton and Southern Thule incidents in February 1977, resulted in the death of the Shakleton Report, due to the unfavorable political atmosphere that eliminated any hope of its implementation. The nationalistic banter and sabre rattling that destroyed the Shakleton Report killed the last real attempt at sovereignty before the invasion. Argentinean refused to discuss the Falklands without raising the sovereignty question, effectively eliminated any further negotiations thereafter (Beck 1985, p 645).


The history of the conflict makes it very clear that nationalism played a major role in the failure of the Falkland Island sovereignty diplomacy. The islanders continued refusal to even consider Argentinean sovereignty, compounded by the Argentineans intense propagandization of the Islands importance and ownership, to the point that they had to retrieve the islands at all costs, formed stumbling blocks in each and every stage of the negotiations. These nationalistic tendencies are still present today and must be overcome somehow if any solution is going to be found to end the crisis. As a result of these conclusions I find my working hypothesis to be valid and reject the null. The diplomatic efforts directed to the resolution of the Falkland Island sovereignty dispute broke down through of the effect of zealous nationalism on the part of one or both parties. Hopefully in the future the nationalistic problems can be overcome.


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Strange, Ian, Falkland Islands: Passing of a lifestyle,Geographical Magazine, Vol. 53 (1) p 30-35, 1983.

Shackleton, Lord, Options for a Falklands' future, The Geographical Magazine, Vol. 55 (1), p 37-39

Wallace, William, How frank was Frank, International Affairs, Vol. 59 (3), p 453-458, 1983.

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