The British claim to sovereignty dates from 1690, and the United Kingdom has exercised de facto sovereignty over the archipelago almost continuously since 1833. Argentina has long disputed this claim, having been in control of the islands for a few years prior to 1833. The dispute escalated in 1982, when Argentina invaded the islands, precipitating the Falklands War.
Contemporary Falkland Islanders overwhelmingly prefer to remain British. They gained full British citizenship with the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, after British victory in the Falklands War.
France was the first country to establish de facto control in the Falkland Islands, with the foundation of Port Saint Louis in East Falkland by French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, in 1764. The French colony consisted of a small fort and some settlements with a population of around 250. The Islands were named after the Breton port of St. Malo as the Îles Malouines, which remains the French name for the islands. In 1766, France agreed to leave the islands to Spain, with Spain reimbursing de Bougainville and the St. Malo Company for the cost of the settlement. France insisted that Spain maintain the colony in Port Louis to prevent Britain from claiming the title to the Islands, and Spain agreed.
In 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued a Papal bull, Inter caetera, dividing the New World between Spain and Portugal. The following year, the Treaty of Tordesillas between those countries agreed that the dividing line between the two should be 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. The Falklands lie on the western (Spanish) side of this line.
Spain made claims that the Falkland Islands were held under provisions in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which settled the limits of the Spanish Empire in the Americas. However, the treaty only promised to restore the territories in the Americas held prior to the War of the Spanish Succession. The Falkland Islands was not held at the time, and were not mentioned in the treaty. When Spain discovered the British and French colonies on the Islands, a diplomatic row broke out among the claimants. In 1766, Spain and France, who were allies at the time, agreed that France would hand over Port Saint Louis, and Spain would repay the cost of the settlement. France insisted that Spain maintain the colony in Port Louis and thus prevent Britain from claiming the title to the Islands and Spain agreed. Spain and Great Britain enjoyed uneasy relations at the time, and no corresponding agreement was reached.