Abroad Thoughts from Home

Ian Townsend-Gault
Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies
Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada

The Long and Inescapable Shadow of Colonialism:
The Latest Falklands Furore

Ian Townsend-Gault

(I have touched on post-colonial themes in previous contributions to IZ. Following discussions with the editor, this is the first in an irregular series of articles which will examine these threads of international discourse as and when they arise.)

One of the hazards of writing a paper such as this is that just when the writer thinks he is finished and is about to submit, something else comes along which simply cannot be ignored and must therefore be included. This paper was not prompted by the 30th anniversary of the ousting of the Argentinean forces which invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. Nor was it the 2012 decision by the government of the Islands to hold a referendum on their future in 2013, a move denounced by Argentina as "illegal", though on what grounds is not immediately clear. The 30th anniversary was followed by the deployment of Prince William to the Royal Air Force search and rescue detachment there, and the movement of units of the Royal Navy into the region, prompting a protest from Buenos Aries that Britain was "militarizing" the area, but this was not decisive either. Rather, credit prompting what follows must be given to President Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina who reignited, forcefully, the debate concerning sovereignty over the islands early in 2013.

The British government reiterated its position to the effect that it was for the inhabitants of the islands to determine their own future. Britain's largest selling newspaper, The Sun, took out advertisements in Spanish and English in leading Argentinean papers refuting every aspect of the claim made by Buenos Aries, and suggesting that a "hands-off" policy was its only option.1

Heady stuff, but more was to come. The release of Cabinet papers pertaining to the options open to the British government of the day under Margaret and, subsequently, Lady Thatcher, showed that the united front presented by London at the time was something of a façade. There was no shortage of those in the cabinet suggesting that it was fait accompli on the part of Argentina, and the only question was how to compensate or otherwise make it up to dispossessed Islanders. None of this was known to the British public at the time. It should also be said that the military advice was resolute and uncompromising - send a task force and expel the invaders. This was duly done, amidst much rejoicing in London and the fury of the people of Argentina. The result forced the resignation of the ghastly military dictatorship which had ruled the country for some years, during which it had committed human rights abuses of the most appalling nature. This in turn led to the restoration of democratic government.

And then, in April 2013, came the death of Lady Thatcher, prompting no end of evaluations and re-evaluations of her foreign and domestic policies (as well as yet more revelations as to who advised what course of action), not least those concerning the Falkland Islands. It is at this point that your writer decided that a line had to be drawn and the paper finished once and for all.

Accordingly, I offer here some thoughts on the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands, and I will also touch on a number of other items of not dissimilar international "unfinished business". It just so happens that, when I started work on this paper, I was in my parents' house sorting out the books of my late father, Robert Hugh Gault, which include a sizeable collection of novels concerning the exploits of the Royal Navy during World War II. I was flicking through one which had escaped my attention when I was living in the family home which charts the life and death of a ship from construction in 1938 to destruction a few years later. Before the outbreak of the war, the vessel sailed the Atlantic, and happened to visit the Falklands. From there it proceeded to Buenos Aries, where the officers remarked over the drinks in the wardroom that their counterparts in the Argentine Navy were not likely to let them forget their country's claim to the Islas Malvinas (there was also a joking reference to the fact that there was an Argentinean governor of the islands, necessarily resident in Buenos Aries, and probably with a fair amount of time on his hands). The novel was published in 1955, and was based on the experiences of serving officers, and it is surely instructive to note that the dispute over the Falklands/Malvinas was something of a thorn in Anglo/Argentine relations decades ago.

Finally, as a sort of postscript, a note concerning new tensions over Gibraltar which arose between Britain and Spain in the summer of 2013. It is relevant in the present context because "The Rock", under British sovereignty since 1713 but physically attached to Spain, has long been claimed by that country. The citizens of Gibraltar, like the Falkland Islanders, consider that their own wishes are more important, and are adamantly opposed to any change in the jurisdictional status quo.

Argentina - UK: What's It All About?
2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the successful British mission to oust the armed forces of Argentina which had invaded the Islands in 1982. President Fernandez de Kirchner marked the anniversary by resuming her government's offensive to attempt to secure recognition of Argentina's claim to sovereignty by diplomatic means as opposed to force of arms. British Prime Minister David Cameron responded in the same terms as his predecessors: it is for the Islanders themselves to determine their future. And so the inhabitants of the Islands, somewhat unimpressed by what they were hearing from Buenos Aries, held a referendum in March 2013 which, to the surprise of none, was overwhelmingly in favour of the status quo.

President Fernandez de Kirchner decries what she terms continuing British colonialism: Prime Minister Cameron responds using the language of self-determination. Argentina claims that it was in full occupation of the islands until ousted by Britain in the late 19th century.2 The United Kingdom denies that Argentina ever "occupied" the Islands, meaning that there was never an established population (as opposed to a garrison) there. At all events, the population of the Falklands regards their islands as home: a good number are second or even third generation, so this is hardly surprising. Those speaking for the government of the Islands deny that they are a colony as, for example, is the case with French Polynesia. There is no "independence" movement precisely because the Islanders consider themselves to be self-governing and self-sufficient as regards everything except defence. They are a British "overseas territory", and not a colony. Accordingly, in their view, the language of "de-colonialisation" is completely inappropriate. Union with or rule by Argentina is not what they want.

There are also those both on the Islands and in London that suggest that the President's recent initiative is sponsored by the same considerations that led to the Argentine invasion of 1982 - a convenient distraction from domestic problems (in this connection, see the Gibraltar postscript). Indeed, there are suggestions that some young Argentineans would prefer more attention to be focused on the daily challenges they face than the pursuit of a policy which appears to be going nowhere. But even if the current Argentinean policy has little chance of success in the short or medium term (and the majority Islanders would say the long-term also), the dispute, as is so often the way where issues of sovereignty are concerned, has a deleterious impact somewhat out of proportion to its true importance. Cruise-ships that call at the Falklands are not welcome in Argentinean ports. Other South American countries have dutifully lined up behind their neighbour, but there are signs that they too are somewhat tired of the whole business - there are more important matters to claim their attention. According to at least one informed commentator, there is a feeling on their part that Argentina, by no means for the first time, is putting its interests ahead of those of other regional countries with little or no thought for the impact upon them.

In this brief paper I will summarize the contending positions, and consider the international legal implications of age, and then advance some tentative suggestions for how to move forward, should the political will exist for a degree of compromise.

The Historical Record
Contested histories are the stuff of conflict. There is nothing new in a country massaging its past for the ostensible benefit of its people. And while the histories of almost all parts of the world are replete with examples of human vileness in all its manifestations, with countries or parts thereof seething with resentment of past wrongs, real or imagined, few factors are as powerful as that of irredentism. Briefly, this is the desire to recapture territory once lost. It does not matter how long ago sovereignty was exercised, or briefly: the notion that "this was once ours" is incredibly powerful and has the unique potential to cast a baleful shadow over present-day policies.

There was a very good example of this in February 2013, when a group of Philippine private citizens "invaded" the Malaysian province of Sabah on the island of Borneo, in an attempt to enforce an historic claim over it which, in theory, exists to this day. This action was a grave embarrassment to Manila and of course had no chance whatsoever of success. There are most likely those in the government of the Philippines who know that the historic claim has no chance of success either; it is just that they cannot possibly say so without being accused of treason, or something to this effect. The fact that there is no apparent way out of this situation will have a number of important consequences, not least impeding the possibility of establishing a maritime boundary between Malaysia and the Philippines for some time to come.

The most recent elucidation of the Argentinean claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands was set forth in a letter from President Fernandez de Kirchner addressed to Prime Minister Cameron in early 2013. In it, the president claims that an indigenous Argentinean population was ousted by British military action in 1876. This ejection was clearly illegal, and it follows that every manifestation of sovereignty by the United Kingdom over the Islands is similarly tainted, and the only solution is to restore to Argentina what is rightfully its own.

The informed expert I referred to above is Prof. Klaus Dodds of Royal Holloway College in London. In an interview with the BBC World Service, Professor Dodds refuted the notion that there was a "population" in the accepted sense of the term to be expelled. Rather, there was an Argentinean garrison which was seen off by British force of arms. At the time, the use of force was a perfectly legitimate way of establishing a claim to territory. If we were to rewind the spool of historical memory (and we would not necessarily stop at the date on which Britain took possession of the Falklands - why would we?), and try to right old historical wrongs, the result would be geopolitical chaos worldwide. To take a notable South American example, the outcome of the War of the Pacific (1878-84) between Bolivia, Peru and Chile would be reversed, at least to some extent, thus restoring the former's access to the sea which was lost when it ceded its coast to the latter by treaty in 1884 (confirmed by a further agreement in 1904). And indeed, in April 2013, Bolivia commenced an action against Chile before the International Court of Justice asking for the "sovereign access" to the Pacific to be restored.3 In May 2013, some Chinese voices were raised to point out that the (currently Japanese) island of Okinawa and adjacent features were once Chinese territory, although a senior officer of the Peoples' Liberation Army has since downplayed this notion. One could go on - and on - but surely the point is made. Since the establishment of the United Nations, international law looks with some disfavour on the acquisition of territory in any way other than peaceful means and with the consent of any population that might be affected. But we cannot apply contemporary legal norms, very much the product of modern political and juridical thinking, to events which took place more than a century ago.

This then raises the issue of colonialisation, much deplored by modern political and juridical thought. One of the major contributions made by the United Nations to the process of de-colonialisation is the Declaration in 1960 on what amounts to self determination. But what if the population of the colony or dependant territory does not desire independence, as is demonstrably the case with the Falkland Islanders?4 When the referendum was first proposed, there were rumblings casting doubt on the legality of such a move. How could it possibly be illegal for the inhabitants of a territory to use the democratic process to declare their wishes as to the form of government they wish to live under? The answer is, surely, that this can never be unlawful. Indeed, the Falklanders have been able to give their view on their political future in a way denied to the populations of the vast majority of territories which became independent in the years following the end of the Second World War. For example, no-one consulted the population of the Dutch East Indies as to whether or not they wanted to be unified in the new state of Indonesia.

There is one other issue regarding colonialisation which surely demand some attention. The greater part of the indigenous population of the Americas, North and South, regard themselves as being subject to colonialisation by Europeans and others to this day. What, after all, is Argentina? It is a state established on Westphalian principles governed for the most part by the descendents of the original colonists. Comparatively few non-indigenous people in the Americas think of themselves in this way. To a Canadian born in Canada to parents also born in Canada, this is home. The present-day descendents of Dutch settlers in South Africa, their counterparts in other parts of Africa, not to mention Australia, New Zealand, and North America, who can trace the point when their ancestors arrived from the "old country" are similarly situated. I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. My paternal grandfather was born in Scotland, and it is entirely possible if not probable that at least some other of my ancestors came originally from one part of the United Kingdom or another. But what is that to me? Why would such considerations possibly suggest to me that I was anything other than Irish (in one way or another, it has to be said).

In retrospect, it must surely be clear to all dispassionate observers that the Argentinean invasion of 1982 was a blunder of mammoth proportions, just as the campaign of violence both in Northern Ireland and the British mainland undertaken by the Irish Republican Army set back the cause of Irish unification for the foreseeable future, despite the progress of the past decade. Up until the Argentinean invasion, there was a strong view in London that the future of the Falkland Islands lay in some sort of union with Argentina. The only question was how to bring this about in a way satisfactory to all sides. There is no doubt that the military dictatorship in Buenos Aries - the regime guilty of the most appalling human rights abuses, let it not be forgot - launched the invasion as a means of trying to establish some degree of popularity. And in this it was totally successful. General Galtieri, its leader, and his colleagues basked in the adulation of huge crowds (which were to turn extremely nasty when triumph turned to fiasco some months later).

The response from London was a demand for an immediate withdrawal. The administration of President Ronald Reagan attempted to exercise its good offices, but to no avail. The British government set a deadline for the departure of the Argentinean forces, and when this ignored, launched a task force of various units of the Armed Forces of the Crown to recapture the lost territories. The public message at the time was one of resolution and determination. But in February and March 2013, various papers pertaining to the situation and the British government's reaction to it came to light which show a somewhat different picture. For one thing, the Cabinet was concerned as to whether military action had any chance of success, and there were those who doubted that it did. Most revealing of all are papers released from the private archive of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (held at Churchill College, Cambridge), which include letters from prominent members of her Conservative party advocating acceptance of what had happened, with one member of Parliament even suggesting that military action to retake the Falklands would make the ill-fated operation to recover the Suez Canal in 1956 seem like "common sense" by comparison. There were also documents attesting to the private anguish felt by the "Iron Lady" in sending at least some British serviceman to death and injury, and reveal her deep distress as the casualty figures mounted. This hardly accords with her public image at the time or subsequently.

The success of the Task Force in retaking the Islands led - most happily - to the downfall of the appalling regime in Buenos Aries, and its replacement by a democratically elected government. President Fernandez de Kirchner is the latest beneficiary of these developments, but it must be said that recent pronouncements have done little to reconcile the inhabitants of the Falklands Islands to the prospect of Argentinean rule.

The Self Determination Argument
Consider the following:

Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples5

1. The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.

2. All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.


4. All armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.

The 1960 Declaration of the General Assembly was adopted at a time when the process of decolonialisation was already underway. The British monarch was no longer Emperor or Empress of India, France had recognized the inevitability of the breakup of its colonies in Indochina, and the Netherlands likewise in what had become Indonesia. In February 1961, the British prime minister of the day, Harold MacMillan, made his famous "wind of change" speech to the South African Parliament, urging its members to accept the fact that nationalism in the continent was here to stay whether anyone liked it or not.6

One of the most intriguing features of post war decolonialisation was the fact that there were very few cases of a reversion to the status quo ante. Indochina, indeed, furnishes one of the few examples where this happened. Vietnam had (more or less) acquired its current borders by the mid-18th century, and the French did their best to fix the territorial boundaries of Cambodia and Laos with their neighbours (a very alien concept to the latter). Those countries therefore re-emerged from the colonial experience only for Vietnam to be divided in two by a conference of the great powers which met in Geneva in 1954 (largely for the purpose of bringing an end to the Korean conflict).7 But pre-colonial Indonesia, or India, if it comes to that, did not exist as such. The emergence of collections of sultanates, principalities, and the like in the guise of a Westphalian state was something new. Those who led the struggle for independence had much to do with this. There is no doubt that the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno, relished the idea of a single state with himself at the helm. The same might be said of Nehru in India, and indeed independence leaders of Africa. It is very instructive to compare a tribal map of Africa with the current geopolitical arrangements - the two are wholly dissimilar. Having said this, there is no doubt that the, then, existing members of the international community regarded the emergence of these new states with everything from acquiescence to enthusiasm.

One of the intriguing questions which arises from a perusal of the opening provisions of the 1960 Declaration is the definition of "peoples." I would suggest that the term could be used to describe a population group which self identifies as a "people". It comes as no surprise to think of the Scots or the Welsh in this way, but certainly a majority of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland did likewise. They thought, and continue to think, that they may be ethnically Irish (and many would dispute even that) and politically British. They do not think of themselves as having any necessary kinship with the inhabitants of the Republic of Ireland (the late Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien posited in his study States of Ireland that these views were reciprocated by not a few inhabitants of the 26 counties).8

In This Issue

The Shade of Colonialism (I): The Latest Falklands Furore
Ian Townsend-Gault

An Introduction to Geopolitical Tales III
Mladen Klemenčić and Clive Schofield

Geopolitical Tales III

Running and Geopolitics: The Pleasures of Fieldwork
John O'Loughlin

Borders in the South Caucasus: Reflections of an Eyewitness
Revaz Gachechiladze

How have I become European?
Anton Gosar

Rockall Revisited
Clive Schofield

There can surely be no doubt whatsoever that the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Falklands Islands self identify as politically British, but primarily as Falkland Islanders. As I said above, no matter where one's grandparents came from, it does not take long for the members of a family to feel close adherence to the country where they are resident (especially if a number of them were born there), without in any way wishing to abandon their cultural heritage if they so choose. Countries such as Canada encourage this, although I have been struck by the fact that a number of first-generation Canadians whose parents were born elsewhere were encouraged to speak one or both of Canada's official languages and forget the mother tongue of their grandparents and even parents, the better to "fit in".

This brings the argument back to the point continually made by London not only with respect to the future of the Falklands Islands, but also Northern Ireland and indeed Gibraltar: there can be no change in political arrangements without the consent of the inhabitants of these territories. The Islanders argue that they are not so much a colony as a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, and point to the fact that defence aside, they are wholly self-sufficient and in good financial shape with yearly surpluses and money in the bank. Indeed, the islands generate a significantly large exclusive economic zone with a most productive fishery, and if the optimistic estimates of oil and gas deposits in the continental shelf are borne out, then their financial situation is set to become better still.9

None of this, of course, is lost on Argentina. However, after the conflict of the early 1980s was over, Britain and Argentina entered into agreements on maritime cooperation including fisheries and oil and gas exploration and production.10 Argentina, however, withdrew from these agreements, and it is somewhat difficult to see what it got in return. Be all this as it may, the 1960 Declaration seems to offer something that the Islanders do not want, and surely it is their right to do so (the inhabitants of Gibraltar are in exactly the same situation). One could go further and suggest that if the English-speaking Falklands' Islanders were to come under the rule of Argentina, might this not be a form of colonialisation? The Islanders, by all accounts, regard Argentina as an alien land, speaking a language which is not theirs. At the end of the day, it is very difficult to think of an argument which trumps the wishes of the inhabitants. It seems to me totally irrelevant that all of them can trace their roots to somewhere else if one were to go back far enough. In this day and age, can it be even remotely relevant that an inhabitant of Northern Ireland can trace her or his roots to the Plantation of Ulster (encouraging Scots from across the Irish Sea and to take up permanent residence), the policy pursued at the time of James I in the early decades of the 17th century, some 400 years ago? And why would we stop there? What of the vast disproportion between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of the Americas? What of the fact that significant parts of Europe changing radically during the course of the 20th century? The Peace Conference at Versailles in 1919 resurrected some states which had effectively disappeared (such as Poland), and created others (such as Yugoslavia).11 In an enthralling study, Vanished Kingdoms,12 Professor Norman Davies traces the history of numerous European polities, some powerful and some otherwise, but which are either no more, or exist in a very different form from that originally envisaged. Reference has already been made to Bolivia's decades' long struggle to regain its lost coastline, not to mention musings on the future of Okinawa and neighbouring islands. There are sound reasons for the presumption at international law to the effect that international boundaries are more or less set in stone. The alternative is a state of continual chaos and uncertainty.

Where Next?
This dispute, as has been said at the outset, has been in progress for decades. During that time, generation after generation of Argentinean schoolchildren will have learned of the grave injustice perpetrated by Britain with respect to the Islas Malvinas. One can quite imagine much being said on the subject of British arrogance, intransigence, and so forth. Attempting to be as objective as possible, it seems clear that the historical record espoused by Argentina has been crafted with a view to serving to support its own case, as opposed to regard for strict factual accuracy. But we tend to believe what we are taught, particularly where issues of sovereignty and national honour are, or appear to be, at stake.

By the same token, generation after generation of Falkland Islanders will have been taught that they are British, and Argentina represents a threat to their chosen way of life. As regards their counterparts in the United Kingdom, the invasion of 1982 might well be the first time a good many Britons had even heard of the existence of this distant territory, and it would be interesting to know to what extent the conflict has remained in the consciousness of the average citizen.

The point is that attitudes towards sovereignty over these islands are very firmly entrenched, and it will take enormous efforts of diplomacy, not to say public education, to create a climate in which some sort of forward momentum leading to an acceptable modus operandi, if not the absolute resolution of the dispute, will be possible. If it is true that the current inhabitants of the Falklands are, or other descendants of the first true settlers of the islands, the closest it has had to an indigenous or embedded population then elementary principles of democracy would suggest that their voice must be heard over all others in determining the political future of this contested territory. The course of history has had results which one could term unfair, unjust, or anomalous. That in and of itself does not appear to be a good reason to go against the clearly expressed wish of the people as it did in Kosovo, Timor Leste and South Sudan. Is this not the very stuff of democracy?

Post-script: Gibraltar - Spain and the United Kingdom Square Off Again
As this paper [finally] approaches completion, news comes that the new right-of-center government of Spain intends to reopen yet another holdover of the British colonial legacy - sovereignty over Gibraltar. The territory was ceded to Britain "in perpetuity" by the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.13 In July 2013, the Spanish authorities instituted "rigorous" checks of cars crossing the border from the territory to their country, causing massive delays. More recently, there has been talk of instituting a crossing fee of €50, which would spell a measure of financial hardship for those who live in Spain and cross the border to work on "the Rock".

The compatibility of these actual and proposed measures with European Law is very much open to question [they certainly seem to contravene the spirit of the notion of the free movement of persons, one of the essential Four Freedoms underpinning the European Union], and the government of the territory intends to take the matter up with Brussels. For its part, the government in Madrid has suggested that the time has arrived to settle the issue of sovereignty once and for all and, needless to say, in its favour. The response from London mirrors that sent to Argentina and the world with regard to the Falkland Islands, just as it did with Northern Ireland: no change in the status quo without the consent of those most directly affected - the population of the territory in question. The point has already been made that this population has expressed its views on this subject with absolute clarity.

One cannot help wonder if, as has been suggested is the case with Argentina, the timing of the actions of the Spanish government have as much to do with the parlous state of its economy as anything else. This is not to doubt that Madrid has long seen British sovereignty over Gibraltar as a historical anomaly, if not an absolute affront.

Final Thoughts
History has thrown up territorial anomalies innumerable - or what outsiders take to be oddities, but which are anything but to those involved. Spain retains possessions in Morocco, for example. The Russian territory of Kalingrad, on the Baltic, is nowhere near the motherland. Are not Monaco and Liechtenstein oddities in the geo-political climate of the 21st century? But what does this matter? In the final analysis, one should perhaps focus less on untidiness and remember that people are living in these "anomalies", irritating as this fact may be. For them, it is home. At the end of the day, surely basic concepts of human rights come into play here, trumping the wishes of governments (and their peoples) to impose their will on an unwilling population.


1 The Sun supported the British military action to retake the Falklands to the hilt. It saluted the destruction of the Argentinean light cruiser "General Belgrano" on May 2nd 1982 by the Royal Navy with the immortal headline "Gotcha!", which might be thought to be a somewhat unseemly way of marking the violent death of more than 300 people (some 700 survivors were rescued). This incident was and is highly controversial, because the Belgrano was steaming out of the British-imposed Exclusion Zone around the Islands at the time it was attacked. As General Sherman aptly remarked, "War is Hell". Once hostilities ceased, the Sun gave credit where credit was due "You Owe it all to The Sun!". No doubt the British servicemen on the Islands had other ideas.

2 The fact that a number of other European countries had knowledge of the islands was overlooked - France had a settlement there before Spain came into the picture.

3 Meaning access as of right, as opposed to relying on the grace and favour of Chile. See the International Court of Justice Press Release No. 2013/11, April 24, 2013, accessible on the website of the court: www.icj-cij.org.

4 Nor was it the case with the colonies of British North America in 1867 - the Constitution Act of that year established Canada as a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire: full independence was the last thing the colonial leaders wanted - see Richard Gwyn, John A. - The Man Who Made Us, vol. 1, esp. Ch. 19 et seq. In other words, not all colonies or dependent territories desire independence. On one of the writers first visits to Brunei, a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that some of his country - including himself - regretted the British withdrawal and forcing statehood on whether they wanted it or not: "we saw things were going pretty well as they were," was the phrase he used if I remember correctly.

5 Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960.

6 India, Pakistan and Burma were independent by this time. Nigeria, British Somaliland and Southern Cameroon became independent in 1960 and the de-colonialisation of French North Africa started in the same year: Malaya and Singapore (plus the Borneo colonies of Sabah and Sarawak) formed Malaysia in 1963. MacMillan called the first in of his six-volume autobiography "Winds of Change", but it covers only the years from 1914-1939.

7 The victory of the Viet Minh forces under General Vo Nguyen Giap at Dien Bien Phu was announced as the conference was under way, and with it France's decision to face the reality of the situation and withdraw from Vietnam. This immediately prompted fears in Western countries that a communist state would emerge. The major powers - the United States, the Soviet Union, China [meaning Beijing], the United Kingdom and France imposed this division, thereby creating "South Vietnam" and "North Vietnam" as a temporary expedient, the results of which we are only too well aware. The Vietnamese people, needless to say, were not consulted, and Ho Chi Minh assented to the arrangement after much arm twisting by his two communist allies. The reason excellent account of the diplomatic travails affecting Vietnam in Lloyd C. Gardner, Approaching Vietnam: From World War II through Dienbienphu, Norton, 1988.

8 Connor Cruise O'Brien, States of Ireland, London, Hutchison Radius, 1972. "The Cruiser" (1917-2008) was an Irish writer, politician, journalist, academic and (somewhat rambunctious) public intellectual: he held office when his Irish Labor Party entered into a coalition with Fine Gael. He subsequently became editor of The Observer. But in his early life he worked with the UN Secretariat, especially as the representative of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld at the time of the Katanga Crisis. Belgium decided to grant the Congo its independence in 1960. But in 1961, the mineral-rich province of Katanga attempted to secede from the new state, probably at the urging of Belgian and other foreign mining interests. Mercenaries were brought in, and it became necessary to insert a UN Peacekeeping Force to prevent bloodshed and the secession. This Force was blamed for a number of human rights abuses which may or may not have taken place: the Western media was firmly on the side of the Katangans. Hammarskjöld lost his life in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1961, the causes of which have never been properly explained (but are now being reexamined as of September 2013). O'Brien went on to write a memoir, To Katanga and Back: A UN Case History (London, Hutchinson, 1962), and a play based on his experiences.

9 Further details on these and many other matters can be found on the website of the Government of the Falkland Islands: www.falklands.gov.fk/.

10 See for example the UK-Argentina Joint Declaration on Co-operation over Offshore Activities in the South West Atlantic (reprinted in the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, Vol.11, No.1, Kluwer International, 1996). All agreements were entered into "without prejudice" to the competing claims of sovereignty, meaning that they did not affect the respective positions of the two states one way or the other. This is a common device in international law where parties enter into an agreement despite a serious dispute.

11 The machinations that led to these and other tamperings with the map of Europe are detailed excellently in Margaret McMillan's invaluable Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (published as The Peacemakers in the United Kingdom), 2001. The book inspired a "docu-drama" of the same name.

12 Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: the History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Allen Lane, 2011 (Penguin paperback edition 2012).

13 The Treaty was part of a larger settlement known as the Peace of Utrecht (all concluded in 1713), which brought an end to the War of Spanish Succession. Canadian readers might be interested to know that its provisions included the French renunciation of its claim to the island of Newfoundland and the cession of its colony of Acadia, both in favour of Britain, and surrendering Rupert's Land to the Hudson Bay Company. The Treaty also put a (temporary) halt to French expansionist ambitions in Europe itself.


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