William Graham briefly describes on this essay the general circumstances of a crucial time of change in the South American River Plate area. British influence was increasing and at the same time this influence was becoming more noticeable not only in South America but also to other imperial powers.
Graham’s main argument focuses particularly on the significance of the-failed-English incursions in the River Plate in the early 19th Century, Las Invasiones Inglesas. The British arrived in Buenos Aires to take the city twice in 1806 and 1807. This was, to the author, the main reason why Argentina-and the rest of South America- were able to achieve independence in the years to come. ‘The English invasions…were the cause of that awakening…termed the Renaissance of South America’. Once victorious the Argentine people realised the power they could exercise to reject foreign control and they were soon to fight for and declare their independence from Spain.
In the course of the declaration of independence British influence was also significant in the hands of diplomats, businessmen and those who directly participated in the process like Admiral Brown, founder of the Argentine Navy. In later years British influence was also important in helping bring to an end the war with Brazil, and by securing the independence of the Banda Oriental-Uruguay-.
In an attempt to prove British influence Graham states the importance of trade and describes most products that conformed imports and exports to and from Britain and the River Plate. There was hardly any developing activity that did not had a British citizen involved in it. In finance, trade, public undertakings, and loans British capital was present. Railways are just one clear example of how far Argentina counted on foreign capital and expertise; loans raised in London, technology imported from Britain, engineers and skilled workers brought to the country specifically for their construction.
Graham’s work is one of very few that in the nineteenth Century helped shed light on the sometimes confusing relationship that existed between Britain and Argentina. This relationship, which was at its peak by the time Graham writes, had probably started with the English Invasions-although the author may have underestimated the importance of trade (contraband) in Buenos Aires and Montevideo carried out by British Merchants before the (twice) embarrassing defeat-. One should not forget that South Americans were long before showing unrest against Spanish extreme trade restrictions and political impositions and independence movements were most certainly germinating throughout the continent.
By Patricia C Prada Jimenez