Frozen empires : a history of the Antarctic sovereignty dispute between Britain, Argentina, and Chile, 1939-1959
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This dissertation investigates the causes, development, and the partial resolution of the Antarctic sovereignty dispute that took place between Britain, Argentina, and Chile between 1939 and 1959. It has two interconnected arguments. The first argument is that the dispute had its roots in a clash between British imperialism and South American nationalism, and, as a consequence, ought to be seen as part of the wider history of European decolonization in the years during and after the Second World War. The second argument is that the history of the sovereignty dispute offers an excellent opportunity for "doing environmental history" due to the relative simplicity of human-nature-culture interactions in Antarctica. By putting these two arguments together, it becomes possible to write an "environmental history of decolonization." Within the context of the sovereignty dispute, this dissertation asks the question: what happened to British imperial claims to "dominion over nature" during the decolonization of the British Empire in the mid-twentieth century? Over the course of the sovereignty dispute, Argentina and Chile sought to challenge Britain's claims to "environmental authority" in Antarctica with their own "environmental nationalism." Rather than conceding to the South American challenge, Britain initially responded by redoubling its efforts to maintain Antarctic sovereignty. However, as the three countries learned more about the reality of the Antarctic environment, their political perceptions of the region changed. The British, in particular, became less attached to exclusive sovereignty and successfully negotiated a limited international regime that would retain their political influence without the need for formal control. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 brought a partial end to the sovereignty dispute by "freezing" all sovereignty claims for its duration.