Abyssinia Crisis

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The Problem of Italy

  • Mussolini aimed to build an empire in Africa. 
  • Wanted an Italina lake in the Medditerranean. 
  • Britain saw Italy as they were a friendly power (Anti-Communist)
  • Also believe he was a useful ally against Hitler. 
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Why did Mussolini want Abyssinia?

  • Wanted revenge for the Italian humiliating defeat with Abysinnia in 1896 at Adowa where Italian prisoners were castrated. 
  • The Allies seemed prepared to allow Italian exapansion. 
  • Mussolini had control over Somalia and used that as an excuse. 
  • Abyssinia had fertile land and was strategically important and free of imperialistic control.Mussonlini believed that Italy needed more raw materials and living spaces for the rising population.  
  • Mussolini claimed that at Wal Wal, Italian troops were being attacked. 
  • Brtiain was silent at Stresa over Abyssinia which implied consent for Mussolini
  • Distraction from the Depression which plagued Italy. 
  • Eden, the Minister of the League of Nations affairs was sent to Rome to make an offer to Mussolini . Mussolini could take part of neighbouring British Somaliland as compensation. Mussolini rejected this saying that he should have the same position in Abyssinia as the British had in Egypt- a difficult point for Britain to argue.
  • However, Hoare at the League Assembly in Geneva September 1935, was hoping to warn off Mussolini by stating that Britain would support the League against unprovoked agression. When Britain dissaproved of Mussolini plans, it only made him more determined. 
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Events of the Crisis

1. In October 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia. 

2. Haile Selassie, Emperor of Abyssinia, appealed to the League for help. However, Britain reluctant to give help as Haile Selaisse wasn't the ideal ruler and Abyssinia had caused Britain enough trouble on the Sudanese border as Italy had experienced on the Eritrean Frontier. Taking action against Italy would destroy the Stresa Front and force Italy towards Hitler. 

3. Britain remained within the League despite the fact Britain wanted to support Mussolini, but the whole League wanted to go against Mussolini. The results from the 1934 Peace Ballot was annouced in 1935 which showed 96% of the 11.5 million people who voted still believed in the League. Britain now had to take a moral stand and supported the League against Italy. 

4. The League denouced Italy as an agressor and imposed economic sanctions. All imports and exports were banned and 70% of Italy's trades was within the League so it was believe that it would bring Mussolini to it's knees. 

5. May 1936, Haile Selassie fled and Abyssinia became part of the Italian Empire. 

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1935 General Election

  • October 1935, Baldwin annouced an election. 
  • The National Government sanction policy, which was to avoid war, was popular and was tailored to the requirement of the election campaign. 
  • Both Labour and the National Government campaigned for the same thing, commitment to the principles of collective security and both talked of the benefits of disarmament. 
  • Baldwin refused to emphasise the extent of his rearmament programme for the fears of losing support. 
  • With the economy improving, the National Government won a victory, polling 11.8 million votes and winning 432 seats. Labour polled 8.3 million votes winning 154 seats. Liberals gained 20 seats and the Communist only gained one seat. 
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Hoare-Laval Pact

  • By early december, most of the members of the League were imposing a trade embargo against Italy, but did not include an oil embargo which had a limited effect of Italy's war effort. 
  • Alternatively, it seemed to rally the Italian people to Mussolini. 
  • In the pact, Italy would recived 1/3 of Abyssinia; Haile Selassie would remain Emperor and would be ceded a strip of the Italian terriory which would give Abyssinia access to the Red Sea. The Cabinet approved the plan and Mussolini was ready to agree.
  • It failed when it was leaked to the press as the public was outraged by it.  
  • Conservative MP's felt they were breaking their election promises and betraying their commitment to the League. 
  • Hoare still believed that the pact was the best solution to the Abyssinia crisis whereas Eden, the new Foreign secretary disliked and distrust Mussolini and thought Britain should stand firm against the League. 
  • In March 1939, Britain voited for the use of oil sanctions, but refused to impose a full naval blockade and oil from the US was still supplied to Italy. 
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Consequences and Results

Hitler's Benefit: 

  • Met that Hitler was prepared to take a gamble on the Rhineland in March 1936. 
  • Hitler was able to target small Eastern European countries. Having Germans living there, legitamised his claim. 
  • Mussolini was beginning to move towards Hitler. as Hitler had refused to commit sanctions and Mussolini dropped his intentions in Austria. 

Failure of the British Policy: 

  • Britain could have closed the Suez Canal. However this would have led to Mussolini to the 'mad dog' act which could lead to declaring war on Britain. 
  • Mussolini began to expand the empire which thretened British interest in North Africa. 
  • Britain was militarily weak compared to Italy- Italy was more prepared for war than Britain. 
  • Britain used it as an act of revenge considering how much trouble Abyssinia had caused on the Sudanese border. Britain had unsucessfully opposed Abyssinia's entry into the League of Nations in 1923. 
  • In June 1936, Chancellor of Exchequer, N.Chamberlain described the sanctions as the 'very summer of midsummer madness'. Week later the sanctions were withdrawn. 
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Consequences and Results

  • It was a death blow to the League of thr Nation as it had failed to halt or deter an agressor. This was a shock to the British public as collective security and the League which had seemed to guard Britain and world peace without spening vast sums on armaments had failed. 
  • It was a major split between Italy, Britain and France. Mussolini felt bitter at the way he had been treated by the Western Powers. 
  • Britain had failed to uphold collective security ot to appease Hitler as well as reveal serious divisions between Britain and France. 
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