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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 20–37 | Cite as

Sir Malcolm Robertson and the British trade mission to South America in 1929

  • Gaynor JohnsonEmail author
Article

Abstract

This article evaluates the British government’s attitude to the trade mission to Argentina led by Viscount D’Abernon in 1929 and analyses its impact on Anglo-Argentina commercial relations. It explores notions of informal empire in South America and the dynamics of Anglo-Argentine and US-Argentine relations. At the centre of the analysis is Sir Malcolm Robertson, the British ambassador to Buenos Aires, whose activities were negatively impacted by British prejudice towards the region. This is the first evaluation of the mission since the 1980s and is based on a wider reading of UK archives. It is the first analysis of Robertson’s diplomatic career.

Keywords

Britain Argentina diplomats diplomacy commerce 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    R. Gravil, ‘Anglo-American Rivalry in Argentina and the D’Abernon Mission of 1929’, in Argentina in the Twentieth Century, ed. D. Rock (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1975), 41–65.Google Scholar
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  4. 3a.
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  32. 26.
    There is a small collection of Robertson private papers in Churchill College Archive Centre, University of Cambridge, UK, class mark RBTN. These include an unpublished memoir written during the Second World War. However, the papers do not add substantially to the public record on his embassy in Argentina.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 224. Argentina had failed to join the League at its inception in 1919 because the Covenant, outlining the rules of membership, appeared to allow the United States to preserve the Monroe Doctrine. See M.T. Gilderhus, ‘The Monroe Doctrine: Meaning and Implications’, Presidential Studies Quarterly 36, no. 1 (2006): 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    This is an oblique reference to D’Abernon’s views that, despite the economic boom in the late 1920s, the international community was on the verge of a major recession and crisis of financial confidence. This he explored in The Economic Crisis: Its Causes and the Cure (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931).Google Scholar
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    It is worth noting that D’Abernon and Robertson lobbied the British government for a separate South American department at the Foreign Office in 1929–1930 in recognition of the region’s ‘special status’, but to no avail. Report of the British Economic Mission to South America August–September 1929, on commercial diplomatic representation in Argentina, 12 December 1929, TNA/BT61/38/3. The first head of the South American department was Sir David John Montagu Douglas Scott.Google Scholar
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  64. 58.
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  65. 59.
  66. 60.
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  68. 62.
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  69. 63.
  70. 64.
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  71. 65.
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  72. 66.
    The substance of Johnson, ‘Sir Ronald Lindsay’.Google Scholar
  73. 67.
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  74. 68.
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  78. 72.
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  83. 77.
    Argentine Agreement, Notes for the Lord Privy Seal, 17 October 1929, TNA/T160/276.Google Scholar
  84. 78.
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  85. 79.
  86. 80.
  87. 81.
    Minute by Gilbert to Phillips, 29 October 1929, TNA/T160/276.Google Scholar
  88. 82.
    This argument is even more apparent in a memorandum from Gilbert to William Graham at the Board of Trade. It is quite clear where the responsibility for this difficult situation lies... Nothing at all appears to have been done by the Ambassador to carry out his instructions and the delay has apparently allowed time for second thoughts in the Argentine to arise. (Gilbert to Graham, 31 October 1929, TNA/T160/276)Google Scholar
  89. 83.
    Minute by Gilbert to Phillips, 29 October 1929, TNA/T160/276.Google Scholar
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    Minute by Crowe, 31 October 1929, TNA/T160/276.Google Scholar
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    It should be noted that this was not the view taken by the Foreign Office in 1930 in explaining the fall of the Yrigoyen government. See, for example, ‘Memorandum on Desire of the Diadema Company to Construct a Refinery in Argentina, 24 February 1930’, BDFA, Series D, Part II, Vol. 6, Latin America, 1929–1930, 176.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, inter alia, Z. Steiner, The Lights That Failed: European International History, 1919–1933 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) and also her article with M.L. Dockrill, ‘The Foreign Office Reforms, 1919–1921’, Historical Journal 17, no. 1 (1974): 131-56.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HistoryKent UniversityKentUK

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