© 2018

Britain and the Dictatorships of Argentina and Chile, 1973–82

Foreign Policy, Corporations and Social Movements

  • Examines newly-released British government documents to explore the shaping of British policy towards the dictatorships of Chile and Argentina

  • Traces the social networks of Foreign Office officials and business leaders to show how policies that benefitted the interests of British companies and banks were prioritised

  • Discusses the evolution of ‘ethical’ foreign policy and its continuing influence on British policy today


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 1-33
  3. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 35-44
  4. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 45-55
  5. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 115-120
  6. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 121-127
  7. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 129-160
  8. Grace Livingstone
    Pages 233-239
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 241-280

About this book


This book explores the links between the British government and the dictatorships of Argentina and Chile, 1973-82, using newly-opened British archives. It gives the most complete picture to date of British arms sales, military visits and diplomatic links with the Argentine and Chilean military regimes before the Falklands war. It also provides new evidence that Britain had strategic and economic interests in the Falkland Islands and was keen to exploit the oil around the Islands. It looks at the impact of private corporations and social movements, such as the Chile Solidarity Campaign and human rights groups, on foreign policy. By analyzing the social background of British diplomats and tracing the informal social networks between government officials and the private sector, it considers the pro-business biases of state officials. It describes how the Foreign Office tried to dissuade the Labour governments of 1974-79 from imposing sanctions on the Pinochet regime in Chile and discusses whether un-elected officials place constraints on politicians aiming to pursue an ‘ethical’ foreign policy. 


Junta Pinochet Falkland Islands Labour Conservative Thatcher Arms Refugees Foreign office Private sector Profit Ethical foreign policy

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Latin American StudiesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUnited Kingdom

About the authors


Grace Livingstone is an Affiliated Lecturer at the Centre of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge, UK, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, UK. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge. She is also a journalist and has reported for the BBC World Service, the Guardian, the Observer and the Independent. She is the author of Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy and War and America’s Backyard: the United States and Latin America from the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Britain and the Dictatorships of Argentina and Chile, 1973–82
  • Book Subtitle Foreign Policy, Corporations and Social Movements
  • Authors Grace Livingstone
  • Series Title Security, Conflict and Cooperation in the Contemporary World
  • Series Abbreviated Title Security, Conflict and Cooperation in the Contemporary World
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-78291-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-08666-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-78292-8
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages IX, 280
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Latin American History
    History of Britain and Ireland
    Political History
    Social History
    Foreign Policy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Grace Livingstone's book should be read by everyone who takes an interest in foreign policy and international affairs. It is a gem which demonstrates not only the need for changes in the way that foreign policy is formulated but also for a more open and democratic system of recruiting Foreign Office and diplomatic personnel ...” (Stan Newens, Spokesman, Issue 141, 2019) 

“The work is, I believe, unique in undertaking an in-depth examination of the role of the state during this important period for international relations, because no-one to date has undertaken such a holistic and intelligently perceptive approach to examining government policy, bringing in issues of class, economics, the role played by solidarity pressure groups and trade unions and structural factors. … There is so much of value in this book. … A vital contribution to our historical understanding of how the state works.” (Morning Star,, October, 2018)


“The book is constructed by pioneering research of outstanding quality.  It places British foreign policy of the 1970s in a quite new and questionable light.” (David Rock, Emeritus Professor of History, University of California, USA, author of Argentina 1516-1987: From Spanish Colonization to Alfonsin)

“Grace Livingstone provides a brilliantly original analysis of UK-Latin American relations prior to the Falklands conflict. Her investigations into recently released archives yield many important insights into the often murky fields of arms sales, the politics of oil, and violations of human rights. Livingstone also develops original and illuminating theoretical perspectives on her subject. Scholarly, compelling and intellectually sophisticated, this book is outstanding.” (John Dumbrell, Emeritus Professor of Government, Durham University, UK)

“Meticulously researched, well-written and very convincing, this book is an authoritative account of the making of British foreign policy towards the military regimes of Argentina and Chile. It is an indispensable study of how both Conservative and Labour governments tried to balance the competing forces attempting to influence the policy-making process. I cannot recommend it too highly.” (Alan Angell, Emeritus Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford, UK)

“In this major new study Grace Livingstone contrasts the way in which British Governments treated  the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina during the 1970s and 1980s, examining the conflicts between ministers and officials, and the role of public opinion. It is an absorbing read which illuminates some dark corners of British foreign policy.” (Andrew Gamble, Professor of Politics, University of Sheffield, UK)

“This is an exhaustive exploration of British National Archives covering Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973 and the Argentine coup of 1976 leading to the South Atlantic conflict in 1982. The resulting book provides a detailed analysis of British foreign policy-making towards Chile and Argentina in the Cold War years. The focus is on the diverging and contrasting attitudes of both Labour and Conservative governments when dealing with Chile and Argentina.  All in all, this book is a must read for those interested in international relations, in the making of British foreign policy, and in understanding the context that led to the 1982 conflict.” (Celia Szusterman,The Institute for Statecraft, UK)

“Grace Livingstone’s work marks an important contribution to the study of British policy toward Latin America. Examining the informal networks of a wide range of actors, from civil servants and politicians to business leaders and interest groups, it demonstrates how the social class of officials influenced the policymaking process.” (Aaron Donaghy, EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow, Harvard University, USA)

“Grace Livingstone’s meticulous and detailed work to unearth and document the execrable position of the FCO, its desk officers, section heads and embassy staff, is wonderful. This book takes us behind the scenes to see how Foreign Office ambassadors and civil service respond to and seek to mould the policies of governments --nowhere more so than in their response to the 1973 military coup in Chile. Conservatives wanted business as usual, Labour wanted an ethical foreign policy. Human rights campaigners wanted something stronger. Here, in telegrams and briefing memos, you can see how it all played out. Grace Livingstone has added a vital and previously missing component to our understanding of the period.” (Mike Gatehouse, former joint-secretary of the Chile Solidarity Campaign)