Archives for posts with tag: Britain

The Falkland Islands are back in the news. One one side of the court: Argentina, accusing Britain of exercising “19th-century colonialism” over the wee South Atlantic archipelago. On the other side: British leaders are flexing muscle–and threatening a fight, if Argentina messes with its territory.

I just published a piece in Maclean’s: explaining today’s conflict–and its historical background: the Falklands War of 1982: ‘Argentina wants to claim the Falklands, but Britain’s not having it.

Here’s a slightly longer version of the published story:



The British government’s latest military maneuver seems fresh out of a Monty Python sketch. 150 British infantrymen who just returned from a tour in Afghanistan’s conflict-riddled Helmand province are being redeployed to the Falkland Islands: a landmass roughly the size of Connecticut, and some 8000 miles from Britain. They will join more than 1000 British service personnel who permanently hold down the South Atlantic fort—along with four Typhoon jets and several Navy vessels.

The saga began early this month, when Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner published a letter in two British newspapers: addressed to UK Prime Minister David Cameron (“Cc: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations”). In the letter, a bellicose Kirchner staked her claim on the Falklands (in Spanish, las Malvinas), which are just off Argentina’s coast. Kirchner wrote: “One hundred and eighty years ago… in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism, Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas.” Kirchner urged the UN to restore the Islands’ “territorial integrity.”

David Cameron didn’t miss a beat: quickly appearing on the BBC to remind us all that the Islands are an overseas British territory—and to declare his “extremely strong” resolve to keep it that way. British military chiefs have reportedly “drawn up new contingency plans to prevent hostile action by Argentina,” London’s Telegraph reports.

Of course, we’ve been here before. In 1982, Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falklands. Argentine troops occupied the area for ten weeks before British troops reclaimed it. Some 250 Brits and 650 Argentines lost their lives. The Islands have been under British control since 1833, after changing hands several times in the 18th-19th centuries. Argentina claims to have inherited them from Spain.



Memories of 1982 are certainly guiding Cameron’s hand, says Graham Stewart, author of A History of Britain in the 1980s. That year, prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s firm action during the Falkland War helped solidify her political support—and shape her legacy. “Cameron is clearly aware of the legacy,” says Stewart.

About 3000 Falklanders live on the Islands. Most make their money on fishing or wool. Though a British territory, the Islands has its own government and constitution.

But the people “feel firmly British,” avows Falkland member of parliament Richard Sawle. Each year, Falklanders celebrate June 14th—the day in 1982 when British troops gave Argentina the boot—as “Liberation Day.”

But as of late, Argentina has appeared increasingly belligerent on the Falklands issue. This might have something to do with the commercial quantities of oil that have recently been found around the Islands. Kirchner has been accused of orchestrating a 2011 decision by the Mercosur bloc (which includes Brazil and Uruguay) to close its ports to Falkland ships.

As tensions escalate, Falklanders are preparing for a March referendum: on the issue of their territorial status. Elsby anticipates that “at least 98%” will vote to remain a British overseas territory.

In the meantime, and in response to president Kirchner’s entreaty, editors at Britain’s Sun published their own letter in The Buenos Aires Herald. In it, they issued the sternest of warnings to Argentina: “HANDS OFF!”



Today from The Daily Mail: Don’t mention (that we won) the war: Government ‘doesn’t want to upset Germans during First World War centenary events’

War author Sebastian Faulks said the tone of events must be ‘modest, inclusive and reverential of others’ – while a source on the planning team said ministers are keen ‘not to upset the Germans’.

Consider this blogger on the ‘WW1 Commemoration Beat’

Today’s Telegraph readers are in a huff: over plans for a new school curriculum, which would require British students to learn imperial units in math class.

In the mid-1970s, British moved from the imperial system (think: yards, nautical miles, acres and stones) to the metric system (centimeters, meters, square meters and grams). Almost every country has adopted the metric system–with the exception of a few holdouts, like the US, Liberia and Myanmar.


Telegraph reported this week:

Imperial measurements ‘to make comeback’ in schools

Imperial measurements are to make a return to the classroom amid fears that children are failing to learn about pints, pounds and miles, it has emerged.

Today, the broadsheet printed some reader reactions. Here’s my favourite:

SIR – I was dismayed to read that the Government is planning to require schools to place imperial units at the heart of maths lessons (report, January 9). I have taught the subject for more than 25 years and am horrified that I should be expected to explain such an awkward, illogical and antiquated system of measurement.

Perhaps it would satisfy all concerned if the imperial system was covered in history lessons and the metric system was dealt with in mathematics and science lessons.

Roger Trowbridge
Calne, Wiltshire

The Imperial Unit system was codified in The British Weights and Measures Act (1824). But imperial units fell out of favour in the 20th century. The metric system is now the official British standard. In 1995, the Units of Measurement Regulation Act required that retail items use metric quantities.

The measurement system in the United States is based on the old British model. Recall that American doctors still use the imperial ‘pounds/feet’ for weight/height–as opposed to the metric ‘kilos/centimers.’

Here’s a decent chart of imperial/metric equivalencies.