Little Bits of History

Falkland Islands

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2013
Falkland Islands map

Falkland Islands map

January 3, 1833: At 9 AM, the British flag is raised over the Falkland Islands. The islands are about 300 miles east of Argentina. There are two large islands and more than 700 smaller islands in the archipelago. They contain 4,700 square miles of land area with 800 miles of coastline. Most of the smaller islands are uninhabited but 2,379 called the islands home in 2001, with most of the occupants being military and civilian personnel at the British military base, located on East Falkland Island.

The history of the islands goes back at least 500 years but active colonization didn’t occur until the 1700s. Since that time, the islands have fallen under the Spanish, French, British, and Argentinean flags. The tiny islands were represented on maps from the early 16th century. It is believed that Ferdinand Magellan or Amerigo Vespucci sighted the islands as early as 1502.

The first Europeans to land on the islands found them deserted. Later exploration has shown the islands were visited, probably by the Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego. Arrowheads and an old canoe remain. Livestock, including foxes, found on the islands confirm some contact with the mainland. The Spanish first landed here and named the islands. The French came and renamed them. The British came, but due to problems with an uprising in their colonies, they abandoned the islands in 1776.

In 1829, Luis Vernet became governor of the islands over British protests. Vernet began seizing American ships and stealing their cargo. America sent the USS Lexington to the area. Puerto Luis was destroyed in an encounter and the islands were declared free of governance. The British sent two ships to the region. British Captain Onslow placed a written request to replace the Argentina flag with the British colors to José María Pinedo, now in charge of the area. Most of the mercenary forces under Pinedo’s command were British and they declined to fire on other Englishman. Pinedo capitulated and the Union Jack once again fluttered over the islands.

“We seem… to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.” – Sir John Seeley

“The reason why the sun never sets on The British Empire is because God doesn’t trust the British in the dark.” – unknown

“The paradox of the British: the weak who wangled the earth and were cursed for it and by it.” – Felipe Fernandez Armesto

“For better or worse — fair and foul — the world we know today is in large measure a product of Britain’s age of empire. The question is not whether British imperialism was without blemish. It was not. The question is whether there could have been a less bloody path to modernity. Perhaps in theory there could have been. But in practice?” – Niall Ferguson

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The islands have seen attempts by both British and Argentineans to rule over the years. The last time there was a Falklands War was in 1982 when Argentine forces invaded. The British, under Margaret Thatcher took back the islands.

Also on this day: Tokugawa Shogunate – The Tokugawa shogunate ended.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.
Eiffel Tower – In 1956, a fire damaged the top floors of the Eiffel Tower.

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5 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on January 3, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Argentina never took the Falkland Islands from Great Britain.

  2. Enchanted Seashells said, on January 4, 2013 at 12:13 am

    There’s so much history and so much we can learn if we’d only read about it!

    • patriciahysell said, on January 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

      I hope what I write is entertaining enough to encourage a start for many different topics.

      • Enchanted Seashells said, on January 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

        I believe you are correct. I’m sure the world would be a better place if more emphasis was placed on studying history and learning from it.

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