THE STRUGGLE FOR THE FALKLAND ISLANDS: A Study in Legal and Diplomatic History by Julius Goebel

THE STRUGGLE FOR THE FALKLAND ISLANDS: A Study in Legal and Diplomatic History

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Surprise! This is not about the recently completed war fought between Argentina and Great Britain. Instead, it's a 1927 study of the historical dispute over the islands by a Columbia University law professor to which has been added, as an Introduction, a 1968 article by British scholar J. C. J. Metford that, in about 20 pages, contravenes Goebel's conclusions (reached after 468 pages). Goebel's approach is scholarly and meticulous--i.e., it's pretty heavy going. The first half is given over to a discussion of who discovered the islands that gets bogged down in conflicting interpretations of log-book data, and to a learned disquisition on the state of international law during the period of conquests between the 16th and 18th centuries. Goebel concludes, first, that it doesn't matter who saw the islands first, since discovery alone was not enough to constitute possession of title, and that legal possession was dependent upon physical possession (uti possidetis). Thus, the islands are rightfully Argentina's (ownership passed to Argentina upon its independence from Spain) and Britain has been in almost constant violation of law since Lord Byron's grandfather went ashore there in 1765 and established a British settlement. The story thereafter is enormously complex and quite intriguing--with French and American involvements that failed to emerge during the recent conflict. But Metford's assertion that the islands are rightly Britain's because only Britain has been able to make its claims stick--through continuous possession over the past century and a half--is more convincing than Goebel's stodgy bookishness; and is itself a claim to uti possidetis. Still, the airing of the dispute is a vivid demonstration of the difficulties still involved.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press