In 1935, Italian troops invaded the African country of Abyssinia.
- Mussolini had ruled Italy since 1922 and wanted to increase Italy's prestige as a world power by increasing its territories in Africa.
- Abyssinia was one of the few countries in Africa not under European control.
- The Italians wanted revenge for a humiliating defeat by the Abyssinians at the Battle of Adowa, 1896.
- Mussolini wanted access to their mineral resources and fertile land.
In October 1935, Italy attack Abyssinia after a clash between Italian and Abyssinian troops after the oasis of Walwal. The Abyssinian army which consisted mostly of infantry (foot soldiers) and cavalry (soldiers on horseback), was no match for their Italians, who used modern weapons, including tanks, planes, poison gas. The only hope for Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia seemed to lie in the size of his country, the state of the roads and an appeal to the League of Nations.
Response of the League
There seemed to be no excuse for the League not to act Italy's action in Abyssinia was clearly an unprovoked invasion of the weak by the strong.
The Covenant of the League laid down what the League's response should be economic sanctions. Therefore, the League set up a committee to decide on what sanctions to impose.
The League's response was weak and ineffective:
- The League banned arms sales and some other goods to Italy and imports from Italy.
- It did not ban oil exports to Italy because it feared the USA would not co-operate.
- Neither did it ban coal exports for fear the British mining industry would be badly affected.
- The Suez Canal, which was jointly owned by France and Britain, was not closed to Mussolinis ships. There fears that closing the canal would cause a full scale war with Italy. This was a crucial one, as the canal was Mussolinis main supply route to Abyssinia
The effects of the Abyssinian crisis were serious, resulting in the end of the League as a peacekeeping organisation, as it could no longer be taken seriously.
- The crisis showed the League members were not willing to use force to stop aggression.
- The secret deal, the Hoare-Laval Pact, showed that Britain and France were undermining the League