Why Did Italy Invade Abyssinia?
In 1896, Italian troops had attempted to invade Abyssinia but had been defeated by the backwards, poorly equipped army of tribesman there. Mussolini now wanted revenge for this humiliating defeat.
Abyssinia had large amounts of fertile land and minerals which would beenfit Italy greatly.
Mussolini wanted glory and conquest to back up his faschist leadership style and increae support back home in Italy.
Italy wanted to build up an Empire of its own, like Britain and France, in fact Mussolini often expressed the idea of rebuilding an empire as great as the Roman Empire. Abyssinia was seen to be a good starting point.
Italy felt that it had been very harshly done to in the Treaty of Versailles, espeically in terms of land, and this was her way of remedying it.
In December 1934 there was asmall dispute at Wal-Wal between Italian and Abyssinian soldiers, which provided Mussolini with the perfect excuse.
What Happened Before the Invasion?
Mussolini demanded an apology for the Wal-Wal incident, and immedietely began readying his troops.
Haile Selassie appealed to the League for help.
Although supposedly attending peace negotiations with the League, Mussolini began preparing for a full scale invasion of Abbysinia.
Britain and France tried to avoid opposing Mussolini, as they saw him as their strongest Ally against Hitler, who was their more pressing concern. In 1935, the three countries signed the Stresa Pact, commiting to stand together against Germany.
However, after the feelings of the British public made it clear that they wanted action against Italy, the British politicians started to "get tough" facing an upcoming election.
On September 4th, 1935, after 8 months deliberation, the League declared no one responsible for the Wal-Wal incident. They then offered Italy a deal wherin Mussolini could have some of Abyssinia. Mussolini refused, and one month later launched an invasion on Abyssinia.
How Did the League, Britain and France React?
Although this was a clear-cut case of a large aggressor country invading another, the League was still left floundering, despite this being much closer to home that the Manchuria Crisis.
Immedietely, the League banned all arms sales to Italy, and all loans and imports. It also banned the export of rubber, tin and metal. However, oil was not included, and these sanctions were weak. Furthermore, they were rendered useless by the USA not being involved.
Also, Britain and France refused to close te Suez Canal, which was Mussolini's only route for his ships to get to Abyssinia, and would have therefore stopped the crisis very quickly. However, Britain and France feared it would lead to war with Italy, and would also damage their trade.
Even worse, Britsin and France sent their Foreign Ministers, Hoare and Leval to try and do secret negotiations with Italy,offering her 2/3 of Abyssinia without consulting the League or Haile Selaise.
However, news of the secret treaty was leaked to the Frenvh press, causing turmoil throughout and ending sanctions discussions.Britain and France had completely betrayed the League.
Mussolini rejected the pact, and continued to invade Abyssinia.
Consequences of the Abyssinia Crisis.
Italy continued to defy the League, and by May 1936 had captured the capital Addis Ababa. On May the 2nd 1936 Haile Selassie was forced into exile.
Hitler took advantage of the confusion and regained the Rhineland, further gathering strength and support and putting himself in a threatening posistion, terrifying France.
The League was helpless as yet another member country acted agressively, rendering it completely useless. The League had officially failed, it had failed to prevent a major crisis on its doorstep, and it was now the laughing stock of the world.
The League's sanctions were show to be completely useless.
It showed that the League could do nothing against a powerful agressor country, further encouraging Hitler, especially as Britain and France now adopted "Appeasement" as a policy.
The four major League powers had now all betrayed the League:Britain, France, Italy, & Japan.
Hitler and Mussolini actually grew closer together, with Mussolini angry about the Hoare-Leval affair.In November 1936, Hitler and Mussolini signed the Rome-Berlin Axis, and soon Italy joined the Anti-Comitern Pact. They continued to be Allies throughout World War 2.