Date of Award

5-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Advisor

Stephen M. Miller

Second Committee Member

Richard Blanke

Third Committee Member

Michael Lang

Abstract

This thesis discusses the significance of the Falkland Islands War of 1982 in the narrative of British national identity. It argues that Margaret Thatcher used the war as a fulcrum upon which to leverage the restoration of militarism as a fundamental element of British national character. It summarizes the sovereignty dispute between Britain and Argentina vis-a-vis the Falkland Islands from the time of discovery and settlement through the war. The first chapter constructs this narrative using a combination of primary and secondary sources to demonstrate the British view of Falkland Islands’ early history that would have informed the Thatcher Government. This section demonstrates that Margaret Thatcher viewed the islands as British, and that British claims to sovereignty over the islands were clearly grounded in the colonial past. The second chapter is devoted to the historical context of decolonization from the 1940s through the early 1980s. Margaret Thatcher lamented Britain’s military retrenchment during this period, and upon becoming Prime Minister in 1979, strove to maintain Britain’s status as a credible military power. This chapter demonstrates that during this period, sentiments of national identity compelled Britain to maintain sovereignty over the islands despite significant economic, diplomatic, and military challenges.

The third chapter focuses narrowly on the Falkland Islands War itself. It analyzes the memoirs of Thatcher and other Government ministers, digests of Parliamentary debates, a Government-sponsored report on the war, and editorials from The Times of London and The Guardian of Manchester to identify key values, principles, and ideas that were invoked in both political and public discourse as justifications for British military action that were fundamental to British national identity, particularly as enunciated by Thatcher.

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