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It just isn't 1833 any more

I see that the residents of the Falkland Islands have voted to stay British again. I'm glad they are getting a choice. I really don't feel that 'they were Argentinian in 1833' is really much of an argument. Imagine if we rolled everything back legally to the status in 1833! It would certainly be entertaining (who's going to volunteer to tell China that they should be a monarchy again?), but I can't help feeling that 'let's just ask people which nation they want to belong to now' is the more practical approach.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
12th Mar, 2013 10:41 (UTC)
I didn't know that was the argument they were using. It does seem a bit bizarre. I think they would do better with the argument that many governments, including the British, are quite happy to ignore the wishes of local people when it suits them. Though my response to that would be largely along the lines that they may do it, but that doesn't make it justified.
12th Mar, 2013 11:00 (UTC)
1833 is when the British rolled up at the Falklands after being absent for 50 years, and decided they liked the look of the place.

As I understand it, the Argentinian argument is that Argentina inherited the islands from Spain when they got independence, and that the Falkland Islanders have no right to self-determination because they are not a native population but appalling colonial types whose land-grab should not be legitemised by time. Although, so far as I know, there *is* no native population, so that argument seems weak. There may be more to it that I've missed.
12th Mar, 2013 11:24 (UTC)
I think there's no native population, but there had been a Spanish governor so the islands were obviously Spanish, and by extension Argentine.

There is perhaps a question of how that argument should apply to whether the Argentine government, descendant of the Spanish one, is the legitimate ruler of Argentina - given that there clearly was a native population before 1492 :-)
12th Mar, 2013 12:20 (UTC)
I remember once pointing out to an American who was holding forth on how the descendents of English settlers in Northern Ireland should really just go back to England, that the families of said English Settlers had, in many cases, settled in Nothern Ireland long before the families of most Americans had settled in North America.

EDIT: Mind you, I've always been in favour of Northern Ireland becoming the 51st state of America, irrespective of what any particular population wants and based entirely on the observation that America seems to think it has a magic solution to the problems there.

Edited at 2013-03-12 12:21 (UTC)
12th Mar, 2013 13:03 (UTC)
The intermarriage of 'English' (and the 'active ingredient' in the polarisation of views in Northern Ireland were Scottish) and other elements in the Irish population is such that this would be very difficult...
12th Mar, 2013 13:00 (UTC)
The Spanish were long gone by 1833. It's arguable whether there was an Argentina in 1833, but the Latin American view was that the islands were connected to Buenos Aires governorate within the United Provinces of South America, and Argentina is the governorate's successor state. From memory, the most recent effective administration had been that of Louis/Luis Vernet, an adventurer who had played both British and Buenosairean claims off each other, though Argentina claims him as one of their own. While Britain did expel a small 'Argentine' garrison, the settlers brought in by Vernet were invited to stay.
12th Mar, 2013 13:19 (UTC)
This is the nail which diplomats and academics are frightened to hit on the head. I read an article last night on the decline of relations between the UK and Argentina which treated Argentina's colonial origins as an interesting footnote, coupled with Argentina's expansion into Patagonia in the second half of the nineteenth century which was itself a form of colonialism.

I am suspicious of all forms of 'manifest destiny'. Argentina, as a post-colonial American state, argues it is its destiny to control a slice of land and sea all the way down to the South Pole. (As well as claiming the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, they like issuing regulations and initiatives for scientific exploration in Antarctica, which they are in little position to put into effect.) Arguing against this is difficult politically for Britain as it cuts into the kind of amour propre on which many countries base their national identity and through which they understand their history. The United Kingdom had to stop thinking in these terms after the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922.
12th Mar, 2013 13:34 (UTC)
I share your suspicion.

*independence of the Irish Free State in 1922*
... or Indian independence, or the Suez crisis, or the end of Rhodesia, or spending the 70's wearing the Sick Man of Europe hat. Oh, or Hong Kong, I suppose. The transition timing is probably arguable. I agree that on the whole we find the whole Destiny thing pretty embarrassing, so I suppose it's quite awkward in a way to have a little faraway colony that is so delighted to be British and loudly saying so.

But I can't see that anyone else should get to make the decision for them.
12th Mar, 2013 15:25 (UTC)
All those incidents too, particularly as they bring down the curtain on the ambition of the United Kingdom government to be in effect the world government; but the independence of Ireland (though it dawns on British self-definition only creepingly, and still hasn't entirely sunk in) ends in practical terms the aim of monopolising access to the North Atlantic from north-west Europe.
12th Mar, 2013 14:34 (UTC)
That seems fair. I think some people like the idea of rolling everything back to 1833 (or 1492, or whenever) because they haven't really thought it through, and it sounds like doing so would somehow undo all kinds of historical injustice - as if we could rewind history.

But we can't, and pretending we can would cause huge practical problems, so asking people what they want now is the best we can do.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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