British invasions of the Rio de la Plata succeed

Aug 2014
1,832
Huntington Beach CA
Spain changed sides in 1808 becoming a British ally, so it's possible that the British would have returned the colonies to Spain.
And possibly not. The British returned the Dutch East Indies to Netherlands after Napoleon was defeated but not Capetown--much to the chagrin of the Dutch people living there.
 
Aug 2014
1,832
Huntington Beach CA
The British were not about to strip other European nations of colonies when they wanted those nations as allies on the Continent. But the British made exceptions to the rule in places they considered strategically vital to them. Martinique was not vital. Java was not vital. The Cape of Good Hope was vital to Great Britain.
Frankly, if the British had been successful at conquering La Plata they would have quickly seen that La Plata was too valuable to give up. Once one gets up the Parana as far as Corrierentes and Santiago de Estero, it is warm enough to grow cotton. The soil is fertile. And Missiones and Paraguay are even better in this regard. And English textile mills are voracious consumers of cotton. See [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Cotton-A-Global-History/dp/0375414142"]Empire of Cotton: A Global History: Sven Beckert: 9780375414145: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41yONrN18VL.@@AMEPARAM@@41yONrN18VL[/ame]
And as Empire of Cotton points up, the British have not commercially penetrated and taken control of India enough to divert local cotton production from traditional markets to the UK. (Which is why the British got so dependent on US slave grown cotton in the first half of the 19th Century).
Steamboats have been invented and make the Parana, Uruguay and Paraguay Rivers easily navigable just as they do the Mississippi. (And Patagonia is good country for wool production. Not only sheep but the native guanuco, which British settlers will soon discover. And alpaca. And in the Pampas, as soon as the steel plough is invented, wheat.
So since the slave trade has been made illegal in 1808 and Indians know HOW to grow cotton, the importation of large numbers of Indian "coolies" to the Plata becomes quite likely. And the Plata becomes a highly Indianised anglophone in most places, Hispanophone around Buenos Aires and Cordoba British colony, possibly with some New South Wales style penal colonies in Patagonia (both sides, Pacific and Atlantic all the way down to Tierra de Fuego, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, as NSW begins to agitate to ban transportation.
An Argentina with large numbers of Indians will have big issues of race and colour bars well into the 20th Century. East Indians and Guarani Native Americans could make for a volatile mixture. Such a nation would definitely not have a boring history.
Which opens the door to the supermaximalist possibility. The British conquer Chile and Peru (no Jose de San Martin to meet up with Bolivar) instead of helping it gain it's independence, possibly forcing a trade with Spain for Borneo as part of Philippines and/or maybe a free hand in Morocco if it can conquer it. Spain, after all, lost those colonies because it's army mutinied rather than be transported to put the revolts down. If British steamboats have steamed up the Paraguay and from Asuncion, the Pilcomayo all the way to the Andes foothills, Peru is going to look very attractive as a wool colony. And the nitrates of the Atacama will also be profitable (though likely leading to potato blight and famine 20 years earlier since the fungus which blighted the potato crop has been found to have come from Chilean nitrates.
Perhaps in that case quinoa and other varieties of potatoes catch on. And are grown in Patagonia, Canada, the British Isles and Iceland and Scandinavia. Lots of ripples. Lots of butterfly wings flapping.
 
  • Like
Reactions: YD-CSL
Sep 2012
339
Brazil
Another thing to keep in mind about this period is that in 1808 Portugal king and other tens of thousands of Portuguese flee to Brazil with the help of the British. The queen was of the Spanish throne lineage and with that flimsy pretext, Portugal invaded and conquered what now is Uruguay.
How would this Portuguese ambition play with a more prominent British presence in the La Plata region?
 
Nov 2010
108
The British were not about to strip other European nations of colonies when they wanted those nations as allies on the Continent. But the British made exceptions to the rule in places they considered strategically vital to them. Martinique was not vital. Java was not vital. The Cape of Good Hope was vital to Great Britain.
Frankly, if the British had been successful at conquering La Plata they would have quickly seen that La Plata was too valuable to give up. Once one gets up the Parana as far as Corrierentes and Santiago de Estero, it is warm enough to grow cotton. The soil is fertile. And Missiones and Paraguay are even better in this regard.
That may be all fine and dandy, but just how much would the British have been able to hold on to the Buenos Aires area - let alone the Argentine interior - from 1807, given a) the severe local opposition in BA to the British that had developed since the first attack in 1806, b) the really strong interest in independence in that same area, and c) its much greater population in 1807 than Quebec City in 1759, Cape Town in 1806, and (for that matter) Montevideo in 1807?

Probably the British would have had to start out slowly from Montevideo, Buenos Aires, etc. and gradually emanate to the interior (due to the gauchos, caudillos, etc.). Plus, the new British government that came to power in March-April 1807 was interested even more in just economic power than military/political power for South America, though perhaps it could have changed its mind with a capture of Buenos Aires. Thus, a key question is: Would BA have gotten independence either in 1807 or certainly by 1810 with British help (in which case the Banda Oriental might - but just might - split off and become a separate British colony, due to smaller population, greater British ease of control of Montevideo, and especially Montevideo's rivalry with BA), or would BA (and thus the River Plate as a whole) have been reduced to a British colony?
 
Last edited:
Nov 2010
108
I've come to think in the last few days - assuming that the minimalist rather than maximalist approach prevails, as seen earlier in this thread - that in the event of an 1807 British victory in Buenos Aires, the British end up controlling (for the long term) just Uruguay and the far southern part of Patagonia. Uruguay, in this case, includes the territory between the Cuareim and Ibicuy Rivers which in real life were handed over to Brazil well after the rest of the Misiones Orientales were handed over to Portugal from Spain in the Treat of Badajoz in 1801. Thus, a bit of a northerly extension of Uruguayan territory relative to real life, but not as much as I've thought of in the past. As for South Patagonia, I've recently come to figure that the British will be much more interested in controlling the Strait of Magellan and other southern passages once they gain control over the River Plate. Thus, the British grab not just the Falkland Islands as per real life, but also Tierra del Fuego (subsequently to be called Fireland) and most/all of real-life Argentina's Santa Cruz province and all of real-life Chile's Magallanes region. In real life, it was Chile that first set up a settlement at the Strait of Magellan in 1843, relatively late. (The reason why I'm not now thinking of northern Patagonia is because I see the British army losing in any battle against the Argentines in Carmen de Patagones, in parallel to the Brazilians losing out to the Argentines there in the course of the real-life Cisplatine War.)

With regard to an independent Argentina, first of all, the newly-independent Buenos Aires, as one of its first tasks, proceeds to suppress the Spanish loyalists in Cordoba, the viceregal capital after Buenos Aires gets captured by the British. If in real life Liniers made a counter-revolution in Cordoba and that was suppressed by the BA patriots without fighting, and Cordoba wasn't the viceregal capital, how much more so the BA patriots come after Cordoba - albeit in this timeline probably with fighting. (Cordoba is the biggest of the royalist threats to the Primera Junta in Buenos Aires, just like in real life.) Second of all, the British will want to maintain stability in Argentina to the extent possible, in order to protect the British colony of Uruguay. To that end, it will want to support the liberal, pro-British Unitarian Party (which Bernardino Rivadavia belonged to). Once someone like Juan de Rosas (of the anti-British Federalist Party) comes to power and wages war against British Uruguay in the name of restoring the old Viceroyalty of La Plata, the British will want to fight the Federalists off as much as possible. (This is the war sort of parallel to the real-life Cisplatine War mentioned above.) It's hard for me to say whether such an Argentina becomes First World economically in the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, receiving lots of immigrants from Spain, Italy, and other lands, only to fall into Peronism and Third World status subsequently; maybe the fall from grace is not quite as big?! Perhaps, also, it's Cordoba and not Buenos Aires that's the capital of Argentina (owing to Cordoba's more central location - and well away from Uruguay - and its post-1807 status as the viceregal capital), though Buenos Aires would still be the commercial capital.

Most probably, there's no Paraguayan War and thus no real destruction of the Paraguayan economy. But slavery in Brazil still does get abolished in the late 1880s and the Brazilian monarchy still does collapse a short time afterwards, but for many other reasons. And I think that the War of the Ragamuffins still gets resolved in favour of the Brazilian monarchy, for many reasons.

What do you guys think of all of that?
 
Last edited:
Nov 2010
108
I've come to think in the last few days - assuming that the minimalist rather than maximalist approach prevails, as seen earlier in this thread - that in the event of an 1807 British victory in Buenos Aires, the British end up controlling (for the long term) just Uruguay and the far southern part of Patagonia. Uruguay, in this case, includes the territory between the Cuareim and Ibicuy Rivers which in real life were handed over to Brazil well after the rest of the Misiones Orientales were handed over to Portugal from Spain in the Treat of Badajoz in 1801. Thus, a bit of a northerly extension of Uruguayan territory relative to real life, but not as much as I've thought of in the past. As for South Patagonia, I've recently come to figure that the British will be much more interested in controlling the Strait of Magellan and other southern passages once they gain control over the River Plate. Thus, the British grab not just the Falkland Islands as per real life, but also Tierra del Fuego (subsequently to be called Fireland) and most/all of real-life Argentina's Santa Cruz province and all of real-life Chile's Magallanes region. In real life, it was Chile that first set up a settlement at the Strait of Magellan in 1843, relatively late. (The reason why I'm not now thinking of northern Patagonia is because I see the British army losing in any battle against the Argentines in Carmen de Patagones, in parallel to the Brazilians losing out to the Argentines there in the course of the real-life Cisplatine War.)

With regard to an independent Argentina, first of all, the newly-independent Buenos Aires, as one of its first tasks, proceeds to suppress the Spanish loyalists in Cordoba, the viceregal capital after Buenos Aires gets captured by the British. If in real life Liniers made a counter-revolution in Cordoba and that was suppressed by the BA patriots without fighting, and Cordoba wasn't the viceregal capital, how much more so the BA patriots come after Cordoba - albeit in this timeline probably with fighting. (Cordoba is the biggest of the royalist threats to the Primera Junta in Buenos Aires, just like in real life.) Second of all, the British will want to maintain stability in Argentina to the extent possible, in order to protect the British colony of Uruguay. To that end, it will want to support the liberal, pro-British Unitarian Party (which Bernardino Rivadavia belonged to). Once someone like Juan de Rosas (of the anti-British Federalist Party) comes to power and wages war against British Uruguay in the name of restoring the old Viceroyalty of La Plata, the British will want to fight the Federalists off as much as possible. (This is the war sort of parallel to the real-life Cisplatine War mentioned above.) It's hard for me to say whether such an Argentina becomes First World economically in the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, receiving lots of immigrants from Spain, Italy, and other lands, only to fall into Peronism and Third World status subsequently; maybe the fall from grace is not quite as big?! Perhaps, also, it's Cordoba and not Buenos Aires that's the capital of Argentina (owing to Cordoba's more central location - and well away from Uruguay - and its post-1807 status as the viceregal capital), though Buenos Aires would still be the commercial capital.

Most probably, there's no Paraguayan War and thus no real destruction of the Paraguayan economy. But slavery in Brazil still does get abolished in the late 1880s and the Brazilian monarchy still does collapse a short time afterwards, but for many other reasons. And I think that the War of the Ragamuffins still gets resolved in favour of the Brazilian monarchy, for many reasons.

What do you guys think of all of that?
Never mind about the stuff about Cordoba being the capital of an independent Argentina, as I've come to think since I wrote the post two days ago that Buenos Aires would have still been the capital anyway (and Cordoba just the temporary viceregal capital), but the other stuff stays put.
 
Nov 2010
108
After the British capture both Montevideo and Buenos Aires in 1807, and elsewhere along the River Plate, where do they follow up?

Even as the River Plate is garrisoned and occupied by British soldiers, do some British naval and/or army units go on to capture places along the Patagonian coast like Puerto Deseado and Carmen de Patagones, as well as the Falklands/Malvinas (and also starting to occupy the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego - at least initially by traders, missionaries, hunters, whalers/sealers, etc.)? I guess probably not the city of Santa Fé, well up the Parana River from the River Plate?

For that matter, do the British also follow up by starting to occupy the parts of real-life Buenos Aires province south of the Salado River, which in real life was the southern limit of the "civilized" portion of Buenos Aires province until 1818 or so? (That vast part of real-life Buenos Aires province was basically hostile Indian country, and it's where places like Mar del Plata and Bahia Blanca are now located.) Or do they leave that to the then-existing province of Buenos Aires, which becomes independent from Britain ca. 1810 (if not before) even as Uruguay remains British?
 
Mar 2016
2
Australia
Hmm I'm not sure I buy the theory where the British occupy only Uruguay and not Buenos Aires. A quick google search (which I'm not sure about the reliability of) gives a BA population of ~500k and Uruguay at ~150k; both populations would be quite difficult to control. I feel like the occupation could go one of 2 ways;

Either the Canadian model, where the original settlers were essentially left alone and the English-speakers settled in a different area of the country;

Or the Cape Colony model, where the English colonists settled in the same area, and before long the society was split between English and Dutch/Afrikaans speakers.

Since the Cape Colony had a white population of just 16k (and was therefore much easier to control), I find it difficult to believe that the second option would have been a feasible one.

So, lets compare it to Canada. The Quebec population was 70k at the time of conquest, but had grown to around 300k by 1810. That's not a huge difference to the population of Argentina at the time, so it's possible that once the British had established a strong foothold, they would have been able to put down any rebellions, as they did in Canada and South Africa.

I definitely think that Patagonia would have become primarily Anglo, but as for the rest?

Possibly you could have a situation where the major cities are a mix of both; should Italian immigration still have occurred under British rule, I think most would have adopted a primarily Anglo culture, as in Canada.

Perhaps you can fill me in on the population of the Northern regions in 1800? If they were relatively sparsely populated, then I find it likely that the (post-conquest) English migrants would have outnumbered the Spanish ones in those regions, and the Spanish would eventually assimilated (like the French in Ontario).

You could end up with a situation where a Spanish-speaking core (Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba), is surrounded by English-speaking regions? Although it might by limited by low immigration levels from Britain (They already had Australia/NZ/SA/Canada plus USA and other countries) so perhaps there might not be enough willing migrants to form self-sustaining colonies there. The Dutch numbered only 16000 at the time of conquest, and yet by the mid-1900s they were still the majority, whereas in Canada the French were present in quite large numbers and yet Canada is now primarily English-speaking. Its hard to tell if Argentina would attract large numbers of immigrants or not.

And what about across the Andes? The British could have seized the area of Chile South of Temuco, assuming it was relatively vulnerable, and then trans-Andes colonies in Patagonia might be more healthy.

Thoughts?
 
Nov 2010
108
Hmm I'm not sure I buy the theory where the British occupy only Uruguay and not Buenos Aires. A quick google search (which I'm not sure about the reliability of) gives a BA population of ~500k and Uruguay at ~150k; both populations would be quite difficult to control. I feel like the occupation could go one of 2 ways;

Either the Canadian model, where the original settlers were essentially left alone and the English-speakers settled in a different area of the country;

Or the Cape Colony model, where the English colonists settled in the same area, and before long the society was split between English and Dutch/Afrikaans speakers.

Since the Cape Colony had a white population of just 16k (and was therefore much easier to control), I find it difficult to believe that the second option would have been a feasible one.

So, lets compare it to Canada. The Quebec population was 70k at the time of conquest, but had grown to around 300k by 1810. That's not a huge difference to the population of Argentina at the time, so it's possible that once the British had established a strong foothold, they would have been able to put down any rebellions, as they did in Canada and South Africa.

I definitely think that Patagonia would have become primarily Anglo, but as for the rest?

Possibly you could have a situation where the major cities are a mix of both; should Italian immigration still have occurred under British rule, I think most would have adopted a primarily Anglo culture, as in Canada.

Perhaps you can fill me in on the population of the Northern regions in 1800? If they were relatively sparsely populated, then I find it likely that the (post-conquest) English migrants would have outnumbered the Spanish ones in those regions, and the Spanish would eventually assimilated (like the French in Ontario).

You could end up with a situation where a Spanish-speaking core (Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba), is surrounded by English-speaking regions? Although it might by limited by low immigration levels from Britain (They already had Australia/NZ/SA/Canada plus USA and other countries) so perhaps there might not be enough willing migrants to form self-sustaining colonies there. The Dutch numbered only 16000 at the time of conquest, and yet by the mid-1900s they were still the majority, whereas in Canada the French were present in quite large numbers and yet Canada is now primarily English-speaking. Its hard to tell if Argentina would attract large numbers of immigrants or not.

And what about across the Andes? The British could have seized the area of Chile South of Temuco, assuming it was relatively vulnerable, and then trans-Andes colonies in Patagonia might be more healthy.

Thoughts?
First of all, at the time of the British invasions in 1806-07, the populations of Buenos Aires Prov. and of Uruguay (known then as the Banda Oriental) were only 80-90K and 30K, respectively. Far smaller than what you postulate. That makes Buenos Aires Prov. only somewhat bigger population-wise than Quebec (then New France) in 1759-63 and the Cape Colony around 1800, and the Banda Oriental was therefore much smaller population-wise (though somewhat bigger than the white population of the Cape). Given that, it becomes quite easy for the British to control the existing population of the Banda Oriental and not so hard for the British to control the existing population of Buenos Aires Prov. The Argentina area in total had about 500,000 people at the time, but that's including areas like Tucuman and Cordoba, deep in the interior, whose populations had vastly exceeded that of Buenos Aires until roughly 1750.

A reason why I'm having the British directly control Montevideo but not Buenos Aires long-term is because Montevideo's population at that time was only 1/4 as large as that of the city of Buenos Aires. In 1807, Montevideo was only a bit bigger then than Quebec City was in 1759, and it was somewhat smaller than Cape Town was in 1795 or 1806 (though the white population of Cape Town was the same size as, or even smaller than, Montevideo's total population). Not to mention Montevideo's geographically more strategic position (e.g. closer to the open ocean) than Buenos Aires'. If there hadn't been local opposition in Buenos Aires (and Montevideo) to the British, these differences in population size wouldn't have mattered so much, but because there was opposition, I think that my plan sounds pragmatic and realistic. The British would have had both trade and military goals; Buenos Aires would have fulfilled the trade goal (and the British wouldn't have necessarily required long-term and direct control of Buenos Aires for that, just informal empire perhaps), while Montevideo would have fulfilled the military goal (requiring a naval base and hence long-term and direct control of that area) as well as the trade goal.

Therefore, I still see the British having direct control over Uruguay and, eventually, Patagonia (inc. Bahia Blanca, Chile south of Chiloé Island, Tierra del Fuego, and the Falklands) no matter what. British immigrants arrive in Uruguay and Patagonia aplenty, with English-Spanish bilingualism in Uruguay and an anglophone Patagonia. As for Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina proper, I still see the British letting that area gain independence around 1808-1810 but heavily influencing them politically and militarily as well as economically for decades. British settlers move into that area also, especially after the agricultural potential of the Pampas becomes realized from around the 1860s (much as British settlers pour into the non-British Transvaal in South Africa in the wake of the gold rush of the 1880s), though not overwhelming the local populations as much as in Uruguay and Patagonia. Then, in 1874, Lord Carnarvon (Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time) at least attempts to unite Uruguay, Argentina proper, and Patagonia in the same way he tried to unite the polities of Southern Africa even in real life. This coincides with more serious efforts on the part of the British, both locally and around the world, to acquire more territory. Therefore, it seems to me that one of two options would have eventuated for British colonization of the Southern Cone over the long term:

1) Uruguay, Patagonia, and Argentina proper (or at least Buenos Aires Province and the rest of the Pampas) somehow federate or at least unite - either at once like in Australia and South Africa, or gradually like in Canada - to form one British dominion and eventually one Commonwealth country, or...

2) Uruguay and Patagonia each become British dominions and eventually Commonwealth countries, while Argentina proper remains a nominally independent country with very strong British influence.

One more thing: I'm also thinking now - perhaps at the time of potential confederation of Uruguay, Patagonia, and Argentina proper, Argentina proper may no longer be one single republic necessarily, especially given the constant civil wars of real-life 19th-century Argentina. It might be perhaps split into a Buenos Aires-based republic, a Cordoba-based republic, and goodness knows what else?! After all, in real life, from 1852 to 1861, Buenos Aires Province was a republic of its own, and the Argentine Confederation (governed at that point from Parana, the Entre Rios capital) made up the rest of real-life Argentina proper. There is also the analogy of the Boers, who had not one but two long-lasting republics of their own (Orange Free State and the South African Republic [Transvaal]). So perhaps, the Buenos Aires-based republic *may* end up in a federation with Uruguay and Patagonia, but the Cordoba-based republic, not necessarily so?!
 
Mar 2016
2
Australia
Ahh, okay, those population figures do seem to make such a scenario more feasible.

I think your suggestion of multiple Spanish-speaking republics based around the major settlements does seem quite realistic. (what is now) Bolivia and Paraguay were part of the Viceroyalty as well, so it is possible that the British could annex those, as well.

My understanding is (often different sources give conflicting information) that the inland population of OTL Argentina in the early 1800s was concentrated around Salta, Tucuman, Cordoba and Mendoza (i.e. the area to the North West of BA). Somewhat similar to today. But Patagonia (obviously) and the area along the Parana and Paraguay rivers did not have large Hispanic populations.

Is this correct?

If so, it seems likely that the British would extend their control North of Montevideo and annex Mesopotamia, Chaco and Paraguay itself. These areas would subsequently become majority anglophone.

Especially if the Hispanic population of OTL Argentina was divided into several republics, then it seems like the British would have a strong motive to annex them. They wouldn't want 2 small colonies split by a republic / republics. Especially towards the end of the 19th century when major powers were starting to rival Britain.

Assuming the British do gain control of Buenos Aires and Cordoba, and you're left with a Canada-like confederation, with English, Spanish and English/Spanish speaking regions. My big question is this: do you get a massive influx of non-British Isles European settlers?

Huge numbers of Italian (as well as German) migrants arrived in OTL Argentina around the turn of the 20th Century. This is important because I'm assuming most would assimilate to the (dominant) Anglophone culture, rather than the Hispanophone one, even in Hispanophone-majority areas. Many people assume than Romance Catholics would obviously assimilate with a similar culture (i.e. Spanish), rather than the Anlgo Protestant one, but the situation in Quebec shows that this is not necessarily the case.

But if Argentina was a British dominion, would this wave of immigration still occur? Canada and Australia did not receive large numbers of Italian immigrants until after WW2, and Germans are a similar story.

Italians migrated to Brazil, Argentina and the USA so I don't think it is a question of cultural/religious preference. Canada/Australia were very wealthy and of a similar population to Argentina in 1900. Canada was easier to get to.

Was there some sort of British policy discouraging non-British/Irish migration to British dominions? Or were Italians/Germans reluctant to live in a colony of Britain?

Or was Argentina more preferable to Italians for some other reason? (maybe climate?) In this case I think we assume than Italian migration occurs as in OTL.

One last thing I want to consider: You suggested than the British might annex Buenos Aires province, but not Cordoba, so as to create a confederation of Anglo-Patagonia, Hispano-Buenos Aires, and Anglo-Uruguay. This would exclude the Western Regions.

In terms of 19th century economic and strategic value, are the Western regions of any worth? Patagonia is useful strategically and for Sheep, Pampas for Wheat/Corn, and Mesopotamia possibly for Cotton. Chaco, I'm not sure, but sparsely populated so no harm in annexing it. But for Cuyo and the Northwest, they're very arid and have no strategic value without access to the ocean. So is there any point attempting to annex those regions?