Why we wrote this book
In common with many other places,
the Falkland Islands have suffered at the hands of the historian. 1
The proper role for historians… is to challenge and even explode national myths. 2
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. 3
In December 2007 the Argentine Embassy in London organised a seminar entitled “Argentine Rights and Sovereignty” at the London School of Economics (LSE), chaired by Professor George Philip, at which the Argentine claim to the Falkland Islands was publicly presented in Britain for the first time. The statements made at that seminar by the Argentine participants contained some serious historical errors, as did the accompanying official pamphlets published by the Argentine government. We therefore held a seminar at the LSE in May 2008, also chaired by Professor Philip, in which we refuted those errors, and we put a 40-page paper online entitled Getting it right: the real history of the Falklands/ Malvinas, with its Spanish translation Más Allá de la Historia Oficial: La Verdadera Historia de las Falklands/ Malvinas [“Beyond the Official History: the True History of the Falklands/ Malvinas”]. In that paper we published historical materials that demonstrated the falsehood of many Argentine statements both at the seminar and in the official pamphlets.
The day after our presentation we gave a copy of our paper to the Argentine embassy in London, and later, in Buenos Aires, we gave copies to both Liliana del Castillo of the “Observatorio Malvinas” (an arm of the Argentine government), and to the late Arnoldo Canclini, a distinguished Argentine historian, President of the “Instituto de Las Malvinas”; Peter Pepper briefly discussed it with Liliana del Castillo, and Arnoldo Canclini went through it with other members of the Malvinas Institute and also discussed it in detail with Peter in two meetings. Thus the Argentine government and the major institution centrally concerned with the Argentine claim to the Falklands were fully informed of our findings. They made no criticisms of our work, then or later.
In May 2012 we put another paper online, of 10 pages, entitled False Falklands History at the United Nations: How Argentina misled the UN in 1964 – and still does, followed in September 2012 by its Spanish translation, Historia falsa sobre las Falklands/Malvinas ante la Organización de las Naciones Unidas: Cómo la Argentina engañó a la ONU en 1964 – y sigue haciéndolo. This second paper was devoted to an analysis of the speech delivered at the UN in New York by the Argentine representative José María Ruda on 9 September 1964, which marked the beginning of a new stridency in Argentina’s presentation of its claim (see section 10.14 below). We refuted the multitude of errors and fallacies in that speech, which have nevertheless been constantly repeated by Argentine writers and governments. By 2012 Getting it right had got out of date (for example, the Falklands Councillors illustrated were no longer in office, and the islands’ constitution had changed), so in mid-2012 we took the Spanish version down from the Internet, and in mid-2013 the English version too.
We were therefore surprised and flattered when in March 2016 Professor Marcelo Kohen, a leading Argentine international lawyer, professor of international law at the University of Geneva, published together with Dr Facundo Rodríguez, an Argentine lawyer specialising in international law, a 300-page book in Buenos Aires attacking us personally, entitled Las Malvinas entre el derecho y la historia: Refutación del folleto británico “Más allá de la historia oficial. La verdadera historia de las Falklands/Malvinas” [“The Malvinas between law and history: Refutation of the British pamphlet ‘Beyond the official history. The True History of the Falklands/Malvinas’ ”]. They mention us by name over 120 times in the course of their attempt to refute what we say, and in addition say over 100 times “the British pamphlet”.
However, their book is nothing like a refutation of our work, and it is not “true history” at all – it is riddled with historical errors, fallacies, omissions, and legal distortions. Its portrayal of the history and legal status of the Falklands is so far from the truth that we felt we could not allow it to stand unrefuted, so we have written this book to set the record straight. We have also taken the opportunity to print some highly significant documents which have never been published before, plus others which were published long ago but have become unjustly forgotten. Much of this book is therefore pioneer history writing, quite apart from being a refutation of the false account by Kohen and Rodríguez.
Their distortions begin right at the beginning: they write as if Getting it right and False Falklands History were two versions of the same paper – over 100 times they refer to “the British pamphlet”, as if there were only one. They also suppress the different purposes of the two papers: Getting it right refuted the errors at the Argentine presentation in December 2007, while False Falklands History did the same for José María Ruda’s speech in 1964. We took down False Falklands History from the Internet, in both English and Spanish, in 2016, and we intend to replace it with a much more detailed account. Some of the errors we refuted in both papers were the same of course, since Argentina has continued to present a false version of the history and legal status of the Falklands, but our papers were quite different in focus and in scope (Getting it right was four times as long as False Falklands History). And neither of them was a “British pamphlet” in the sense of having anything to do with the British government, the Falkland Islands government, or any official authority. We are two amateur historians, no more and no less. To clarify our respective roles: the work on this book was done jointly, and we are here defending ourselves jointly, as “Pascoe and Pepper” against the attacks by Kohen and Rodríguez, so naturally the text uses “we”, “us” and “our”, but the work has not been evenly apportioned between us – the lion’s share of the background research was done by Peter, with contributions from Graham, while the actual text was written by Graham, which is why Graham appears as sole author on the front cover.
On 2 May 2017 Kohen and Rodríguez placed an English translation of their book online, The Malvinas/Falklands between History and Law: 4 Refutation of the British Pamphlet “Getting it Right: The Real History of the Falklands Malvinas”. That translation also appeared as a print-on-demand book in July 2017, and all quotes we give here are taken from it, but we give page-numbers only of the paper Spanish edition, since the online and print-on-demand English versions have differing page numbers (with typically 163 and 234 pages) and both may of course be altered. All our internal cross-references within this book are to our own sections, not to pages; all page-numbers in source-references refer to other works including that by Kohen and Rodríguez.
The two authors aim to “refute” our research findings and to “prove” that the Falklands rightfully belong to Argentina, but they fail in that aim, since they base their contentions on a false version of Falklands history. The history of the Falklands has hitherto been extremely poorly understood. All previous authors – whether British, American or Argentinian – have with few exceptions (e.g. Ernesto Fitte) simply rehashed the descriptions in earlier books, ignoring the vast mass of original documentation on the islands’ history held in the Argentine national archives in Buenos Aires (Archivo Nacional de la Nación, AGN), as also in London in the Public Record Office (The National Archives), and in Stanley and some other places. Those authors ultimately based their work on a mere handful of original accounts, some of which were wrong to start with, such as Louis Vernet’s seriously erroneous account of David Jewett’s visit to the islands in 1820, which has been slavishly followed by many authors who have then copied inaccurately from each other (sections 4.6, 4.7).
It is important to get the history right, since history is the only basis for the Argentine claim to the Falklands – Argentina has no political claim (the Falkland Islanders are not clamouring to join Argentina) nor any kind of geographical claim (section 10.1). And history is the raw material of justice – no correct judgement can be based on false history. We have spent more decades than we care to remember researching into the history of the Falklands, piecing together the story of what really happened – all historians have to be detectives, after all, just as all detectives have to be historians. We therefore feel well placed to recount the real history of the islands.
We have been working on two books: first, The Falklands Saga, which now runs to some 2,800 pages and over two million words, containing not only the islands’ history in great detail, but also the texts of hundreds of original documents, many of them in full, in English and also (if different) in their original language, Spanish, French, German, Latin or Dutch; and secondly A New History of the Falkland Islands, a one-volume digest of the larger book. A fuller account of the history and legal status of the Falklands will be found in those works – when we find time to finish them…
We have done a great deal more research in the 12 years since we wrote Getting it right in 2008; we have found much documentation that was unknown to us then, so we have revised and/or extended our view of certain parts of the story. If that constitutes “shifting our ground”, then so be it; we would be stupid if, faced with new evidence, we did not alter our view to match the facts. So here we supply much extra detail and some additional arguments, in order to demonstrate the untruth of what Kohen and Rodríguez assert. Our book is therefore over three times as long as theirs – 267,000 words as against their 80,000 – but we make no apology for that, nor for mentioning some things in several places; one of our aims has been to supply a convenient source for checking the facts, and that is easier to do if we offer more than one chance to find them.
The history of the Falklands, if correctly told, demonstrates that they are not part of Argentina and that Argentina has no title to them; they are a separate country with its own history and its own people. Rightful title to the islands is held by Britain; the islands’ inhabitants are the holders of territorial sovereignty and possess the full right of external self-determination; at present they freely choose to remain in partnership with Britain. For a summary of our conclusions see chapter 11.
Finally, we wish to emphasise again that this book is not an official publication; like our two online papers, it is merely the work of two interested amateurs. We have not been commissioned to write it, and we speak for no one – neither for the Falkland Islanders, nor for the Falkland Islands government, nor for the British government. We have received no financial support from any of them or from any other source. Our views and findings do not coincide precisely with any official standpoint, but we have considered the available evidence in detail for a very long time, and we believe that our conclusions reflect the verdict of history and of international law.
1 From an anonymous article, “Graves at Port Egmont and other matters”, in the Falkland Islands Magazine and Church Paper, No. VI, Vol. XXXIII, Stanley October 1921, p. 9. For the Falkland Islands Magazine, see section 8.27.
2 Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History, Toronto 2008, p. 39.
3 Attributed to US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003).
4 Their Spanish title runs “entre el derecho y la historia” [“between law and history”], but the English translation reverses the order: “between History and Law”]. We feel history comes first, hence our title.