The Falklands Factor: A Popular War

Patrick Isacks


Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges described the 1982 Falklands War as equivalent to two bald men fighting over a comb. The war cost Britain about 250 soldiers and $1.3 billion, which works out to be about $750,000 per Falkland Islander. The invasion by Argentine forces on April 2nd and the resulting conflict to recover the islands by the British Navy excited the British public in a way other contemporary wars could not. Though the Falkland Islands made a minimal contribution to the British economy and their inhabitants technically were not British citizens at the time of the actual war, the British public supported the conflict with an enthusiasm that was unprecedented in the late twentieth century. The Falklands War is at best a footnote in British history, and analysis of the war most often takes place in the context of the revitalization of Margaret Thatcher’s career. The war itself, however, has far-reaching significance other than its impact on Thatcher. Examination of both professional histories and popular representations of the war reveals that four main factors contributed to the war’s popularity: historical context, historical memory, the limitations of the media, and the actual key events of the war. Determining the reasons for the popularity of the Falklands War can help to explain the continuing debate about Margaret Thatcher’s career, and it can explain why the public is so reluctant for war in the 21st century.


Falklands, Britain, Argentina, Margaret Thatcher, Public Opinion, Media

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