If you have been reading the news over the last few days, you might have seen some articles on the records released by the UK National Archives this week. As I predicted in a previous post, the majority of the files discussed in the press have related to the Falklands War, which was a decisive moment in Thatcher’s reign. The Guardian has provided some of the best coverage of the archival papers released and there has been some very interesting discoveries.
At a 1982 Conservative Party rally speech in Cheltenham, Thatcher made much of the ‘Falklands factor’ and spoke of how victory in the Atlantic had inspired the Tories to take on the ‘enemies within’ (such as the trade unions):
Our people are now confident enough to face the facts of life. There is a new mood of realism in Britain.
That too is part of the Falklands Factor.
The battle of the South Atlantic was not won by ignoring the dangers or denying the risks.
It was achieved by men and women who had no illusions about the difficulties. We faced them squarely and we were determined to overcome. That is increasingly the mood of Britain. And that’s why the rail strike won’t do…
What has indeed happened it that now once again Britain is not prepared to be pushed around.
We have ceased to be a nation in retreat.
We have instead a new-found confidence—born in the economic battles at home and tested and found true 8,000 miles away.
But this article in The Guardian shows that Thatcher was willing to deal with Argentina over the Falklands and was not geared up towards war at first. Another article that featured in The Guardian actually showed that Britain was not really prepared for war in April 1982 and that the Conservative Government seemed to be unresponsive to intelligence reports from MI6 on the issue. The authors of the newspaper article contrast this with the pressure that the Blair Government put on the intelligence agencies in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of the most interesting aspects of the reportage of the archival papers was this article on the effects of the War on the UK’s foreign policy and the Commonwealth, with Thatcher worrying that Spain might seize Gibraltar in a similar way to the Argentinian grab for the Falklands. Although by this time, Spain had rid itself of its Francoist dictatorship and was a liberal democracy, unlike Argentina, which, at the time of the Falklands War, was ruled by a military junta.
Looking through the National Archives news page, most of the files that have been digitised and publicised over the last few days have related to the Falklands War, but there are a few other interesting topics that have been uncovered, such as Britain’s reactions to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the declaration martial law in Poland. My favourite though is this file on the rescue of Thatcher’s son, Mark, during the Paris to Dakar rally. (WARNING: large PDF file linked)
Looking through the catalogue, I haven’t found much relating to my archival wishlist that I posted last week. I did find one Prime Minister’s Office file (PREM 19/797) on immigration policy that was released last week, but nothing that I can find on the reversal of Henry Yellowlees’ decision on x-raying migrants or on the impact of the British Nationality Act. On all the other topics, I have been able to find nothing that was released this week, but while looking up whether anything had been released on John Tyndall’s BNP, I did find two records relating to Tyndall and other long-term British fascists, such as Martin Webster, being tried for racial and public order offences (MEPO 2/10633 and CRIM 1/3973) in the 1960s. I hope to have a look at these files when I’m in the UK in February.
What does everyone else think of the newly released files? Is anyone doing stuff on the ‘Falklands factor’ out there?