The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), a British crown colony in the South Atlantic, lie some 772 km (480 mi) northeast of Cape Horn, between 51° and 53° S and 57° and 62° W , and have an area of 12,173 sq km (4,700 sq mi). The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, consist chiefly of hilly moorlands. The population (estimated at 2,967 in mid-2002) is almost exclusively of British origin. Stanley, on East Falkland, the capital and only town, has about 1,000 inhabitants. There are no railways and few surfaced roads beyond the vicinity of Stanley. Shipping service to and from the islands is slight. There is internal air service but no international service.
The Falklands were sighted in 1592 by John Davis, an English navigator. The French founded the first colony on East Falkland, in 1764, transferring it two years later to Spain, which renamed it Soledad. The British took possession of West Falkland in 1765. Both islands were eventually abandoned. In 1820, Argentina (then the United Provinces of La Plata) colonized East Falkland. British troops occupied the islands in 1832–33, but Argentina has continued to dispute Britain's claim to the Falklands. On 2 April 1982, Argentine troops invaded the islands, precipitating a conflict with the British that cost over 1,000 lives. The UK recaptured the islands on 14 June, and some 4,300 British soldiers remain in the Falklands following the conflict.
Under a new constitution which came into effect in October 1985, the colony is administered by an appointed governor, with an Executive Council of 5 members: 3 chosen by the 10-member Legislative Council, and 2 ex officio members, the chief executive and the financial secretary. The currency unit is the Falkland pound ( F £), which is equal to the pound sterling.
There is no commercial agriculture. Most households in Stanley and the outlying areas grow their own vegetables. Sheep farming, the traditional industry, is directed primarily to the production of wool, hides, and skins, and the manufacture of tallow. Most commodities needed by the territory and its dependencies are imported. In 1987, the government began selling fishing licenses. which generate about $40 million per year, with squid representing nearly half of the catch. Exports (mostly wool) were valued at US $7.6 million in 1995. Trade is principally with the UK. Tourism is growing, with 30,000 tourists visiting the islands in 2001.
All medical services are public. The islands has three physicians. The only civilian hospital was destroyed by fire in 1984; temporary facilities were used, with support from the British Military Hospital, while a replacement was constructed. Education is free and compulsory for children from 5 to 15 years of age. Students unable to attend the schools in Stanley are taught by traveling teachers and by radio and correspondence.
Dependencies include South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, some 1,300 km (800 mi) E of the Falklands, with an area of 4,092 sq km (1,580 sq mi). Whaling and sealing are the main industries.