Haverstock Series: Interview with Dr Grace Livingstone

Haverstock Journalism Club

Haverstock is a co-educational school in Camden Town, North London. Producing political heavyweights including the likes of Ed Miliband, it is not a school that should be cantankerously dismissed. Students are engaged, well informed and mean business. This is the latest in a series of contributions from their students.

Greed, corruption, violation of human rights, cruel and questionable world leaders are all mentioned in Dr Grace Livingstone’s (Dr G) latest book: Britain and the Dictatorships of Argentina and Chile, 1973-82. Foreign Policy, Corporations and Social Movements (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

Pictured above: Livingstone’s book (left); Livingstone (right)

The official’ cooling off’ period for War Documents is thirty years and as soon as the period was over Dr G started her research. Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. The files Dr G expected to be there had disappeared!

Dr Grace: I did a freedom of information request – which is when you want to find out some information and the government has to tell you. I asked:

How many documents about Britain’s relationship with the Argentines dictatorship have been destroyed?

The answer came back, 322 folders were permanently wiped out…

Dr Grace: The Argentinian dictatorship had up to 30.000 people killed – tortured, and the head of the Argentine Navy, who was part of the government, came to Britain and he met the head of our Navy. Four years later our two countries were at war. You would think that meeting in London would be interesting, but all the files relating to that have been destroyed!

I think there should be a discussion about WHO gets to decide what government documents are kept in the National Archives and which ones should be destroyed. Sometimes there are bits that are blacked out but that means in the future you can read them but if you permanently destroy them no one can ever know what happened.

Dr Grace did discover files that showed that war planes and battle ships were sold to the Argentinians and then used against the British army in the Falklands War and this has uncovered human rights issues.

Dr Grace: There are government guidelines that say you mustn’t sell arms if they can be used to abuse human rights but behind the scenes the UK Government approved battle tanks and war planes.

We think that Dr Grace has discovered documents that really give a look at what goes on behind closed doors and raises questions about the priorities of the two Governments – business or human rights. These priorities are still important today and teach us valuable lessons.

Thank you Dr Grace, we really learnt a lot about history.


Interview by Daniel and Yusuf

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