The Falkland Islands had no indigenous population prior to their settlement by our ancestors– the Islands were entirely unoccupied. First claimed by Britain in 1765, the British, French and Spanish periodically had garrisons in the Islands until 1811, when all the garrisons were withdrawn. Subsequently, British and American ships frequently visited the islands.
On 6th October 1832, an Argentine military garrison landed in an attempt to establish Argentine sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, disregarding the British claim of 67 years prior. Less than 3 months later, on 2nd January 1833, the Royal Navy evicted the Argentine military garrison with no loss of life. The civilian population in the Islands, who had sought permission from Britain to live there, were invited to stay. All but two of them, with their partners, did so. A year later, a small, permanent British administration was established. With an increasing population, in 1845 Stanley was founded, and remains our Capital to this day.
We enjoyed a peaceful existence until 1st April 1982, when an Argentine military force invaded our home. For 74 days we lived under foreign occupation, until our liberation by British forces on 14th June 1982. Nearly 1000 Falkland Islands, British and Argentine lives were lost as a result of this act of aggression.
Since 1982, our lives have been transformed following the establishment of commercial fisheries. Financially self-sufficient and almost entirely self-governing, we determine our own future and way of life.
Our community today has been formed through voluntary immigration and settlement over the course of nearly two hundred years. We are a diverse society, with people from over 60 nations having made the Islands their home. At out heart are those Falkland Islanders whose families have been in the Islands for nine generations.
There is a lot of misinformation spread about our history. For a detailed and accurate summary, we would encourage you to read the document “Getting it right: the real history of the Falklands” which is available from here and in Spanish here.
You can also download booklets explaining more about our history and way of life in English; Our Islands Our History, Spanish; Nuestra Islas Nuestra Historia or Portuguese; Nossas Ilhas Nossa Historia.
For a comprehensive timeline of events in the Falkland Islands and in South Georgia, you may wish to read Main Events in the History of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia compiled by David Tatham.
1592 First recorded sighting on August 14, by English sea captain John Davis in the ship ‘Desire’.
1690 First recorded landing made by English navigator, Captain John Strong in his ship the ‘Welfare’. He named the channel dividing the two main islands ‘Falkland Sound’ after Viscount Falkland, then Treasurer of the Royal Navy.
Over the years several French ships visited the Islands, which they called Les Iles Malouines after the French port of St. Malo.
1740 Lord Anson passed the Islands on an exploration voyage and urged Britain to consider them as a preliminary step to establishing a base near Cape Horn.
1764 The French diplomat and explorer, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, established a settlement at Port Louis on East Falkland.
1765 Unaware of the French settlement, Commodore John Byron landed at Port Egmont on West Falkland and took possession of the Islands for the British Crown.
1766 Captain John MacBride established a British settlement at Port Egmont.
The Spanish Government protested about the French settlement and Bougainville was forced to surrender his interests in the Islands in return for an agreed sum of money. A Spanish Governor was appointed and Port Louis was renamed Puerto de la Soledad, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Captain-General of Buenos Aires; then a Spanish colony.
1770 British forced from Port Egmont by the Spanish.
1771 Serious diplomatic negotiations involving Britain, Spain and France produce the Exchange of Declarations, whereby Port Egmont was restored to Britain.
1774 Britain withdrew from Port Egmont on economic grounds as part of a redeployment of forces due to the approaching American War of Independence, leaving behind a plaque as the mark of continuing British sovereignty.
1811 The Spanish garrison withdrew from Puerto de la Soledad. At this time, South American colonies were in a state of revolt against Spain.
1816 The provinces which constituted the old Spanish vice-royalty declared independence from Spain as the United Provinces of the River Plate.
1820 A Buenos Aires privateer claimed the Falkland Islands in what was probably an unauthorised act – which was never reported to the Buenos Aires government. No occupation followed this.
1823 A private attempt was made to establish a settlement on the Islands, but this failed after a few months. The organisers requested the Buenos Aires government to appoint one of their employees the unpaid ‘Commander’ of the settlement.
1825 Britain and the Government of Buenos Aires signed a Treaty of Amity, Trade and Navigation. No reference was made to the Falkland Islands.
1826 Louis Vernet, a naturalised citizen of Buenos Aires (originally French with German connections), undertook a private venture and established a new settlement at Puerto de la Soledad.
1829 Buenos Aires appointed Vernet unpaid Commander of his concession in the Falkland Islands and Tierra del Fuego, on the grounds that they claimed all rights in the region previously exercised by Spain. Britain registered a formal protest, asserting her own sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
Vernet made the first of several approaches to Britain then to re-assert its sovereignty over the Islands. Earlier he had got the British Consul in Buenos Aires to countersign his land grants.
1831 Vernet seized three American sealing ships, in an attempt to control fishing in Falkland waters. In retaliation, the US sloop ‘Lexington’ destroyed Puerto de la Soledad, and proclaimed the Islands ‘free of all government’. Most of the settlers were persuaded to leave on board the ‘Lexington’.
1832 Diplomatic relations between the US and Argentina broke down until 1844. Supporting Britain, the US questioned the claim that all Spanish possessions had been transferred to the Government of Buenos Aires and confirmed its use of the Falklands as a fishing base for over 50 years. The US declared that Spain had exercised no sovereignty over several coasts to which Buenos Aires claimed to be heir, including Patagonia.
Buenos Aires appointed an interim Commander to the Islands, Commander Mestivier, who arrived (with a tiny garrison and some convicts) about a month before Britain re-asserted its claim at Port Egmont.
1833 Commander Mestivier had been murdered by his own men by the time Captain Onslow sailed from Port Egmont in the warship ‘Clio’ and took over Port Louis, claiming the Islands for Britain.
Buenos Aires protested, only to be told: “The British Government upon this occasion has only exercised its full and undoubted right … The British Government at one time thought it inexpedient to maintain any Garrison in those Islands: It has now altered its views, and has deemed it proper to establish a Post there.”
Since this time, British administration has remained unbroken apart from a ten week Argentine occupation in 1982.
1845 Stanley officially became the capital of the Islands when Governor Moody moved the administration from Port Louis. The capital was so named after the Colonial Secretary of the day, Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby.
1914 Battle of the Falkland Islands, one of the major naval engagements of the First World War in which British victory secured the Cape Horn passage for the remainder of the war.
1965 United Nations Assembly passed Resolution 2065, following lobbying by Argentina. This reminded members of the organisation’s pledge to end all forms of colonialism. Argentine and British Governments were called upon to negotiate a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute, bringing the issue to international attention formally for the first time.
1966 Through diplomatic channels, Britain and Argentina began discussions in response to UN Assembly pressure.
1967 The Falkland Islands Emergency Committee was set up by influential supporters in the UK to lobby the British Government against any weakening on the sovereignty issue. In April, the Foreign Secretary assured the House of Commons that the Islanders’ interests were paramount in any discussions with Argentina.
1971 Communications Agreement was signed by the British and Argentine governments whereby external communications would be provided to the Falkland Islands by Argentina.
1982 On 2 April Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and diplomatic relations between the two nations were broken off. Argentine troops occupied the Islands for ten weeks before being defeated by the British. The Argentines surrendered on 14 June, now known as Liberation Day.
1990 Diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina were restored.
1999 At the instigation of Falkland Islands Councillors, a Joint Statement was signed between the British and Argentine Governments on 14 July. This was designed ‘to build confidence and reduce tension’ between the Islands and Argentina. Two Councillors from the Islands witnessed the signing on behalf of the Falkland Islands Government.
2009 Following almost ten years of discussion and negotiation, a new Constitution for the Falkland Islands took effect on 1 January 2009. Marking an important milestone in the history of the Falkland Islands, the new Constitution provides enhanced local democracy and internal self-government, and enshrines the right of self-determination.
2013 Referendum held in March, overseen by international observers. Falkland Islanders voted to determine their future, 99.8% of those who voted, voted YES to maintaining current political status as a British Overseas Territory.