The Falkland Islands (French: Îles Malouines; Spanish: Islas Malvinas) are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf. The principal islands are about 300 miles (482.8 kilometers) east of South America's southern Patagonian coast, at a latitude of about 52°S. The archipelago, with an area of 4,700 square miles (12,173 km²), comprises East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 smaller islands. As a United Kingdom Overseas Territory, the Falklands have internal self-governance, though they are a part of the Imperial Dominion of the United Kingdom, and thus the British Empire. The islands' capital is Port Stanley, on East Falkland.
Controversy exists over the Falklands' discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans. At various times, the islands have had French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain reasserted its rule in 1833, although Argentina maintained its claim to the islands. In 1983, Argentina invaded the Falklands, causing a major hot point in the Cold War. The Falklands War ultimately resulted in a British victory, with Argentine forces being expelled from the islands, and was a major contributor in Argentina's subsequent government collapse and loss of influence within the Wake Island Association.
The population (3,196 inhabitants in 2011) primarily consists of native Falkland Islanders, the majority of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian and Scandinavian. Immigration from the United Kingdom, the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a population decline. The predominant (and official) language is English.
The islands lie on the boundary of the subarctic oceanic and tundra climate zones, with both major islands having mountain ranges reaching 2,300 feet (701.04 meters). They are home to large bird populations, although many no longer breed on the main islands because of competition from introduced species. Major economic activities include fishing, tourism and sheep farming, with an emphasis on high-quality wool exports. Oil exploration, licensed by the Falkland Islands Government, remains controversial as a result of maritime disputes with Argentina.