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Whatever happened to the Îles Malouines?

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: The capital of the Iles Malouines. The archipelago was originally settled by dispossessed Acadians (photo © Helo80808).


Join us as we explore maps old and new of a remote island archipelago, one that was first settled by displaced French Acadians. We unravel the politics of place names in the Îles Malouines. Along the way we detour to discover Thatcher Peninsula.

Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville, had a good year in 1767. Throughout that year, the naval captain was busy circumnavigating the globe — a successful endeavour which ensured that his name would go down in the history books as the first Frenchman to accomplish this feat.

The French count had founded Port-Saint- Louis just three years earlier, with the intention of creating a new homeland for settlers of French origin who had been displaced by the British from Acadia (nowadays part of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada). During le grand dérangement in the summer of 1755, thousands of Acadians were brutally driven from their land as their farmsteads were set ablaze.

Some of these dispossessed Acadians were transported to France, whence their ancestors had come over one hundred years earlier. They settled in the Brittany port of Saint-Malo, but France was for these migrants a foreign land. So they jumped at the chance when Louis-Antoine floated the idea of creating a new Acadia for these landless unfortunates. Here was a chance to reclaim their dignity, by being the very first settlers in a remote archipelago called the Îles Malouines. In 1764, Louis-Antoine set sail from Saint-Malo with the first batch of Acadian refugees. Thus was Port-Saint-Louis founded, its name not a gesture to the master mariner, but a nod in honour of King Louis XV who had by then occupied the French throne for half a century.

More settlers from Saint-Malo followed in the next couple of years, so that by 1766 Port- Saint-Louis had 130 inhabitants. This little outpost of Acadia in the South Atlantic turned out to be less enduring than the French monarch in whose honour it was named. For in 1767 Louis- Antoine sold the entire settlement and all the land around to Spain. Louis XV nodded benignly at the arrangement. The French and Spanish thrones were after all both Bourbon, and this was no more than a rearrangement of affairs that was fully in keeping with the spirit of the pacte de famille.

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