Argentina: A Short History by Colin Lewis

By Colin Lewis

With distinctive concentrate on political intrigue, army energy, and such key figures as Eva Peron and Videla, it is a enticing survey of the using forces at the back of Argentina, its dramatic upward thrust, and up to date difficulties.

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While world commodity prices remained buoyant, the result was increasing affluence and confidence – not merely among the pampean estanciero elite. It was during this period that Argentine statesmen conceived of their country as a second United States of America (a dynamic modern frontier society made by immigrants) and, indeed, as a potential rival to the USA. The world economy, however, was volatile. Global patterns of demand changed and – as the experience of Argentina demonstrated – a comparative commercial advantage based on factor endowment was no guarantee of enduring efficiency nor, indeed, of access to overseas markets.

Although lending to governments – home, colonial and foreign – continued to account for a substantial volume of transactions, the market proved particularly amenable to British-registered enterprises seeking funds to establish operations overseas. By the 1900s, ‘foreign and colonial railways’ had become the single largest set of companies listed on the Exchange and one accounting for a disproportionate share of business. The bourses of Paris and, to a lesser extent, Berlin tended to specialise in public bonds.

It is difficult to underestimate the impact of the Paraguayan war on Argentine regional relations and diplomacy. The war undoubtedly contributed to the policy of neutrality and an emphasis on conflict resolution in Argentine administrative and diplomatic circles, a conviction that would also foster aspirations to continental leadership and efforts to assume the role of mediator in regional conflicts. Ignoring the violence applied by one section of the military upon another during the 1950s and 1960s and by the Argentine armed forces on their own citizens in the 1970s, throughout the later part of the nineteenth century and until 1982 it was the proud boast of officials of the Ministry of Foreign Relations that the country had not been involved in a conflict with foreign forces since 1870.

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