History of Argentina

Argentina is a young nation in comparison with European or Asian countries. Historians normally divide Argentine history into four main parts; Pre-Columbian, Colonial period, the war of independence and the history of modern Argentina.

It is thought that humans first arrived in the region now known as Argentina 13,000 years ago. Traces of human settlement can be dated to the Neolithic period but from 4000 BC to 2000BC the population was sparsely scattered. Not much is known of the people who inhabited the area as writing didn’t arrive until the first European explorers did in 1502.

The Spanish Empire lay claim to all of South America establishing cities and trade routes throughout the following 300 years. They established the viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata a form of government that ruled over a territory that included today’s Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay as well-as a lot of Bolivia.

The region prospered from gold mining and its rich abundance of natural resources but Spanish rule began to slip after the British victory at the battle of Trafalgar. Less Spanish ships were able to send troops and supplies to support the ruling regime and in 1806 and 1807 the British tried to invade Buenos Aires but were defeated both times. The Napoleonic Wars had a big impact on South America. Spain’s overseas territories realised that their master was weak and the victories over the British gave them a new found confidence.

The viceroyalty crumbled after Spain was invaded by Napoleon in 1808 after the French turned on their former ally. With Spain conquered and the Spanish King taken prisoner the South America’s were effectively on their own and it wasn’t long before they began their fight for independence.

The May revolution overthrew the viceroy and saw revolutionary’s battle royalists loyal to Spain. The first battles were fought by Argentine hero Manuel Belgrano, however with the ending of the Napoleon at Waterloo Spain was able to send veteran troops to bolster the royalists. Belgrano was defeated and the revolution hanged in the balance. Eventually the war swung back into their favour due to the success of Jose de San Martin whose army liberated Chile and Peru. The revolutionary’s officially declared independence in 1824 and Argentina was born. Peace however would prove to be elusive. The defeat of the Spanish was followed by a long civil war over how the new nation should be run; it wasn’t until 1853 that peace would truly be restored to the land and a constitution formally agreed upon. From the 1860suntil the 1930s

Argentina played host to a variety of dictators and radical governments as well fighting with its neighbours. In 1929 the country had the fourth highest GDP in the world but the days of prosperity were short-lived with the great economic crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. The nation suffered again when world trade collapsed thanks to World War Two. The 40’s saw a revolution led by the military and a succession of dictatorial generals took power.

1946 saw General Juan Peron take power and with his popular wife Evita drove the nation into the ground, he was overthrown in 1955 and the following decade saw a succession of coups taking place. It wasn’t until the 1980s and Argentina’s defeat at the hands of the British in the Falklands War that the age of dictators came to an end in the country; the defeat exposed their weakness and saw Carlos Menem overhaul Argentine domestic policy.