Abyssinian Crisis

The League of Nations and the Abyssinian Crisis

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  • Created on: 06-06-12 15:48
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How did Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia damage the League?
The fatal blow to the League came when the Italian dictator Mussolini invaded
Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935. There were both similarities with and differences
from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.
Like Japan,
Italy was a leading member of the League.
Like Japan, Italy wanted to expand its empire by invading another country.
Unlike Manchuria,
This dispute was on the League's doorstep. Italy was a European power. It even had
a border with France.
Abyssinia bordered on the Anglo-Egyptian territory of Sudan and the British
colonies of Uganda, Kenya and British Somaliland.
The League could not claim that this problem was in an inaccessible part of the
world. Some argued that Manchuria had been a special case.
Phase 1 ­ January 1935 to
October 1935:
The League plays for time
In this period Mussolini was supposedly
negotiating with the League to settle the
dispute, while at the same time he was
shipping his vast army to Africa and
whipping up war fever among the Italian
people ­ he was preparing for a full-scale
invasion of Abyssinia.
To start with, the British and the French
failed to take the situation seriously.
They played for time. They were
desperate to keep good relations with
Mussolini, who seemed to be their
strongest ally against Hitler by:
Signing an agreement with him early in
1935 known as the Stresa Pact which
formalised a protest at German
rearmament and a commitment to stand united against Germany.
Not even raising the question of Abyssinia.
Some historians suggest that Mussolini believed that Britain and France had promised
to turn a blind eye to his exploits in Abyssinia in return for his joining them in the
Stresa Pact.
A ballot was taken by the League of Nations Union in Britain in 1934­35. It showed
that a majority of British people supported the use of military force to defend
Abyssinia if necessary. Facing an autumn election at home, British politicians now began
to `get tough'. At an assembly of the League, the British Foreign Minister, Hoare, made
a grand speech about the value of collective security, to the delight of the League's
members and all the smaller nations. There was much talking and negotiating. However,
the League never actually did anything to discourage Mussolini.

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On 4 September, after eight months' deliberation, a committee reported to the League
that neither side could be held responsible for the trouble that led to the Italian
The League put forward a plan that would give Mussolini some of Abyssinia. Mussolini
rejected it.
Phase 2 ­ October 1935 to May 1936: sanctions or not?
In October 1935 Mussolini launched a full-scale invasion of Abyssinia.
This was a clear-cut case of a large, powerful state attacking a smaller one.…read more

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Italy continued to defy the League's orders and by May 1936 had taken the capital of
Abyssinia, Addis Ababa. On 2 May, Haile Selassie was forced into exile. On 9 May,
Mussolini formally annexed the entire country. The League watched helplessly.
Collective security had been shown up as an empty promise.
The League of Nations had failed.
If the British and French had hoped that their handling of the Abyssinian crisis would
help strengthen their position against Hitler, they were soon proved very wrong.…read more


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