The upcoming thirtieth anniversary of the short, but brutal Falklands War has catalysed renewed tension between the United Kingdom and the Argentine Republic. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner declared that London had ‘remilitarised’ the Falklands to provoke conflict with Buenos Aires. London responded that while the deployments were routine, and had nothing to do with the anniversary of Argentina’s 2 April 1982 invasion of the islands, they renewed their vows to defend the Overseas Territory and its estimated three thousand inhabitants, the vast majority of whom expressly wish to remain British.
In many respects, the Falklands War was the world’s last colonial conflict, the climax of decades of mutual distrust between Argentina and Britain. At the turn of the century Britain included Argentina as an economic member in its’ informal empire; largely thanks to British and American investment, the Argentine Republic was one of the world’s great economies in the years immediately preceding the First World War. During the Perón regime and later the military junta led by Leopoldo Galtieri, the Falklands became a rallying cry for Argentine nationalists, and a distraction from domestic economic problems. Nearly a thousand men (adding both British and Argentine forces) perished in the three month battle, before British Major General Jeremy Moore declared that ‘the Falkland Islands are once more under the government desired by their inhabitants’.
The Falkland Islands conflict catapulted the isolated British colony into the public conscience for the first time since the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914 and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute for British Geographers) resurrected the Falklands’ position with discussions of the islands’ role in British and international history. In July 1982, for instance, Ann Savours recalled Captain John Biscoe’s 1830-33 expedition to the Falklands and its dependencies, including South Georgia Island and the South Shetland Islands (p. 293). At the November annual RGS-IBG annual meeting, directors congratulated the Directorate of Overseas Surveys for their accurate charts utilised by the armed forces, and displayed the war charts throughout Lowther Lodge (Meetings: p. 413).
After the victory’s initial glow had passed, the RGS-IBG turned a substantially more analytical and educational eye to the Falkland Islands and its inhabitants, a motley assortment of sheep herders, small business families, and fishermen. In early 1983 they decided to re-familiarise (a now interested) British public about the Falkland Islands’ geography, history, and ecology. Patrick Vincent, a native-born Falkland Islander, wrote in The Geographical Journal‘s classically detached language, ‘The characteristics of the Islanders are largely dictated by isolation and remoteness. They are a simple straightforward people…ingenious and inventive…’ (p. 17). Inigo Everson updated RGS-IBG audiences on the Falklands’ maritime life. Similarly, Sir George Deacon, then a former director of the National Institute of Oceanography, provided a detailed explanation of the Falkland Islands seabed, currents, flora and fauna. This article, in turn, was immediately followed with an overview of the history and current local economic importance of the Islands’ sheep farming industry (pp. 11-13). The Geographical Journal‘s March 1983 issue thus proved to be a necessary and important document, intended to reintroduce Britain to one of its most devoted (yet up until 1982 least-remembered) colonial outposts. It continues to be an excellent introduction to Falkland Islands affairs to the present.
Jon Swaine and Raf Sanchez, ‘Argentina to complain to UN over “militarisation” of Falklands‘, The Telegraph, 8 February 2012, accessed 18 February 2012.
‘Falklands War surrender telex to be auctioned‘, BBC News, 15 February 2012, accessed 18 February 2012.
Ann Savours, ‘Biscoe’s Antarctic Voyage 1830-33‘, The Geographical Journal 148.2 (July, 1982): 293-96.
‘Meetings: Session 1981-82‘, The Geographical Journal 148.3 (November, 1982): 411-18.
Patrick Vincent, ‘The Falkland Islanders‘, The Geographical Journal 149.1 (March, 1983): 16-17.
Inigo Everson, ‘Krill‘, The Geographical Journal 149.1 (March, 1983): 19.
George Deacon, ‘The Falkland Region‘, The Geographical Journal 149.1 (March, 1983): 11-13.
Huw Williams, ‘Sheep Farming in the Falklands‘, The Geographical Journal 149.1 (March, 1983): 14-16.
‘Background to 1 Kensington Gore‘, Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute for British Geographers), accessed 18 February 2012.