Argentina - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Republic of Argentina
Formation 1816 / 1816
Capital Buenos Aires
Population 40.7 million / 39 people per sq mile (15 people per sq km)
Total area 1,068,296 sq. miles (2,766,890 sq. km)
Languages Spanish*, Italian, Amerindian languages
Religions Roman Catholic 70%, Other 18%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 2%, Jewish 1%
Ethnic mix Indo-European 97%, Mestizo 2%, Amerindian 1%
Government Presidential system
Currency Argentine peso = 100 centavos
Literacy rate 98%
Calorie consumption 3001 kilocalories
Yes, they invaded the Falklands. Yes, we’d already invaded Argentina a long time before that. Equally unsuccessfully, though.
We’re all aware of the failed Argentinian invasion of the Falklands in 1982. One thing most Brits are a lot less aware of is the failed British invasions of Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807.
Argentinian waters saw a fair number of armed British ships between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, but it was in the nineteenth century that we took a really serious interest in the area.
We had long harboured ambitions in South America and since we were yet again fighting Spain, which then controlled the territory of present-day Argentina, Major General William Beresford, prompted by Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham, decided that even though there were no official orders from the British government to do so, it would be a good idea to invade Buenos Aires. It wasn’t a good idea. It was a terrible idea, in fact. There had been a sort of concept in Britain that the locals might welcome getting rid of the Spanish, but it didn’t entirely work out like that. We took Buenos Aires easily enough in June 1806, and some locals were pleased to see us, but quite a lot were not. One Santiago de Liniers helped organise a fight-back against us and raised militia forces, eventually leading to bitter fighting and Beresford’s surrender in August. It was all highly embarrassing and more than a little humiliating. Our occupation of Buenos Aires had lasted forty-six days, even less than the Argentinian occupation of the Falklands. In 1807 we were back, but things went even worse this time round. In July, Lieutenant-General John Whitelocke led our second attempt to take Buenos Aires. From the start our forces met stiff local resistance and, once again, a British commander was forced to sign another humiliating deal over Buenos Aires. When he got back to Britain, Whitelocke was court-martialed and dismissed from the service.
You’d think somehow after two such major disasters we might have left the area alone, but we were back in Argentinian waters later in the nineteenth century. We occupied an Argentinian island, Martín García, for a time and conducted the British and French Blockade of the Rio de la Plata, the British part in this lasting from 1845 to 1849. We don’t seem to have achieved anything very much with that effort either.