Love and Money in the Informal Empire: The British in Argentina, 1830–1930

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Abstract

Debates about Britain s ‘informal empire’ range from how it ought to be defined to whether it even really existed. But for all the heat these arguments have generated, we still know very little about what the people at the heart of British-owned enterprises thought they were doing in regions outside formal imperial control but where British capital and markets proved crucial. Drawing upon a recent deposit in Argentina of a substantial set of Anglo‐Argentine familial and business records, this article investigates British capitalism on the periphery. Anglo‐Argentines, even those whose families made their living from the cross-Atlantic trade for a century or more, did not think about their enterprises as building territory or extending Britain’s influence in the world. Money-making was their aim and their loyalties did not extend much beyond their own front door. There is a crucial — but often overlooked — distinction to be made here between national identity and economic interest. Just as Britain’s greater glory took a back seat to commercial success, so too did meeting the material and emotional needs of family members take precedence over money‐making. They prioritized family harmony over profits and stability over the possibility of expansion.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPast and Present
Volume244
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

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