The Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) have a complex history stretching over five hundred years. Active exploration and colonisation began in the 18th century but a self-supporting colony was not established till the latter part of the 19th century. Nonetheless, the islands have been a matter of controversy, as due to their strategic position in the 18th century their sovereignty was claimed by the French, Spaniards, British and Argentines at various points.
A place of little concern: AD 1592-1982
The uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the Falkland Islands is a direct result of their relative unimportance. The European seafaring nations have frequently seized from each other rich islands in the Caribbean. But in such cases the affront has been such that it is soon followed by a treaty, either restoring the territory to its previous owners or ceding it to the newcomers.
The bleak Falklands, far south in the Atlantic, have changed hands with similar frequency. But in the past there has never been sufficient sense of urgency to settle the issue.
The British are the first to record the existence of the islands. John Davis sights them in 1592. John Strong is the first to land, in 1690. He names the islands after the treasurer of the navy, Viscount Falkland, and then sails on.
The islands remain uninhabited until the French found a colony at Port Louis on East Falkland in 1764 (they call the islands les Îles Malouines because the expedition arrives from St Malo). In the following year a British expedition under John Byron (grandfather of Lord Byron the poet) establishes a fort at Port Egmont on the tiny Saunders island north of West Falkland. Byron claims the islands for Britain (unaware that the French are on East Falkland, though this would not have deterred him). Soon the British acquire new neighbours. The French cede their settlement on East Falkland to Spain.
Spain, adapting the French name to become las Islas Malvinas, is the first nation to take settlement on the islands seriously. Spanish forces make repeated efforts to expel the British from Saunders Island. They finally succeed in 1774.
For the next sixty years the islands are exclusively in Spanish hands, but during this period the allegiance of the local Spaniards changes. When the Argentinians assert their independence from Spain, in 1816, they also lay claim to the Spanish territory of the Malvinas. Argentinians take possession of the islands in 1820.
The Falkland Islands have a total land area of 4,700 square miles (12,173 square kilometres) and a coastline estimated at 800 miles (1,288 km). Two main islands, West Falkland and East Falkland, and about 776 smaller islands comprise the archipelago. The Falklands are continental crust fragments that resulted from "the break-up of Gondwana and the opening of the South Atlantic that began 130 million years ago". The islands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean, on the Patagonian Shelf, and 310 miles (500 kilometres) east of Patagonia in southern Argentina.
The economy of the Falkland Islands is classified as the 222nd largest in the world by GDP (PPP), and ranks 9th in the globe by GDP (PPP) per capita. Unemployment is currently at a 4.1% rate, and inflation was last calculated at a 1.2% rate in 2003. Based on 2010 data, the islands have a very high Human Development Index of .874, but a medium Gini coefficient for income inequality of 34.17.
Economic development was historically advanced by ship resupplying and sheep farming for high-quality wool. In the 1980s, while synthetic fibers and ranch underinvestment considerably hurt the sheep farming sector, the Falkland Islands government found a major source of profit through the establishment of an exclusive economic zone and the sale of fishing licenses to "anybody wishing to fish within this zone". Since the end of the Falklands War in 1982, the islands' economic activity increasingly focused on oil field exploration and tourism.
Top Tourist Attractions In Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
- San Carlos
- Christ Church Cathedral
- New Island
- Carcass Island
- Sea Lion Island