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History of the Falklands Prior to British Settlement
The Falklands Islands were named in 1690 after the 5th Viscount of Falkland by Captain John Strong, a friend of the Viscount. However, it is believed that they were first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1519. The islands were uninhabited at the time they were first discovered, and the French were the first to establish a settlement there in 1764 called Port St Louis on the East Falkland Island. The French referred to the islands as Îles Malouines, the Spanish translation of which is 'Islas Malvinas'.
In 1767, the French agreed to transfer sovereignty to the Spanish, but by this time, the British had established a settlement of their own on West Falkland known as Port Egmont.
In 1770, The Spanish landed a force on the West Falklands to eject the tiny British garrison there, however, the following year due to diplomatic developments, Spain allowed Britain to restore its settlement in Port Egmont. Some people in Britain questioned the wisdom of holding on to a colony that was a mere 200 or so nautical miles from a hostile Spanish-occupied mainland, and in 1776, after the outbreak of the American War of Independence, Britain withdrew from the island, leaving a plaque behind that continued to assert British sovereignty. The Spanish however, continued to claim their own sovereignty over the islands as part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata until 1814. By 1820, The Spanish had lost control of its South American Empire, and the new Republic of Argentina considered itself to have inherited Spanish Claims to the Islands.
Permanent British Settlement
In 1828, an Argentine Merchant named Luis Vernet established a base for sealing and fishing on East Falkland, having sought the permission of both the Argentine and British Governments first. However, he was attacked and driven from the islands by the American ship USS Lexington, after the Americans accused Vernet of piracy for capturing an American ship accused by Vernet of violating his exclusive fishing rights. Following the raid of Vernet's settlement, the Argentinians tried to establish a penal colony on the islands, however this was not a success, due in large part to a mutiny on the islands, which had to be put down by force.
In 1831, RN sloop HMS Clio arrived in the Falklands to reassert British Sovereignty, however, the Islands, whilst sparsely populated, where considered to be in a lawless state of anarchy. When Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1834, he commented:
"After the possession of these miserable islands had been contested by France, Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited. The government of Buenos Aires then sold them to a private individual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done before, for a penal settlement. England claimed her right and seized them. The Englishman who was left in charge of the flag was consequently murdered. A British officer was next sent, unsupported by any power: and when we arrived, we found him in charge of a population, of which rather more than half were runaway rebels and murderers."
Frome 1834 onwards, the islands began to come under more cohesive British authority, and permanent British settlers began to arrive. In 1843, work on the capital, Stanley, began and by 1845, was inaugurated as the capital of the Falklands Islands. The Falklands economy, based around sealing, fishing and ship repair, began to develop.
Battle of the Falkland Islands
At the outset of World War I, the Falklands Islands was an important supply base for British shipping. In December of 1914, a small German squadron, led by Admiral Graf von Spee, decided to raid the islands. When they arrived however, they were dismayed to discover that a considerably more powerful British naval squadron was present at Port Stanley when they arrived, and attempted to flee into the open sea. In the subsequent battle, the Germans lost all but two ships, out of a total of 8, as well as the loss of over 1,800 sailors, including Admiral von Spee. The British lost no ships, but lost 10 men along with a further 29 wounded.
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Falkland Islands Coins
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