Abyssinia Crisis

Abyssinia Crisis

The Abyssinia Crisis was a diplomatic crisis during the interwar period originating in the conflict between Kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Ethiopia (then commonly known as "Abyssinia" in Europe). Its effects were to undermine the credibility of the League of Nations and to encourage Fascist Italy to ally with Nazi Germany.


Both Italy and Ethiopia were members of the League of Nations which was founded in 1920. The League had rules forbidding aggression among members. Italy was a founding member of the League. Ethiopia joined 28 September 1923.

In 1930, Italy built a fort at Walwal, an oasis in the Ogaden. The Italians did this as part of their gradual encroachment into what had been generally considered Ethiopian territory. After the border clash at Walwal on 5 December 1934, Ethiopia appealed to the League for arbitration. But the League's response was dull and sluggish.

In actuality, many nations were working independently of the League in order to keep Italy as an ally. Shortly after the initial appeal, Prime Minister Pierre Laval of France met with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in Rome, resulting in the "Franco–Italian Agreement" on 7 January 1935. This treaty gave Italy parts of French Somaliland (now Djibouti), redefined the official status of Italians in French-held Tunisia, and essentially gave the Italians a free hand in dealing with Ethiopia. In exchange for this, France hoped for Italian support against German aggression.

There was little international protest to Mussolini when he then sent large numbers of troops to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, the Italian colonies that bordered Ethiopia to the northeast and southeast respectively.

The United Kingdom did attempt to quell the crisis at one point, sending Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden to broker peace. It was a failed mission though, as Mussolini was bent on conquest. Following that, Britain then declared an arms embargo on both Italy and Ethiopia. Many believe that this was a direct result of Italy's decree that supplying Ethiopia would be perceived as an act of unfriendliness. Britain also cleared its warships from the Mediterranean, further allowing Italy unhindered access.


On 3 October 1935, shortly after the League exonerated both parties in the Walwal incident, Italy invaded Ethiopia, Ethiopia declared war, and the Second Italo–Abyssinian War was started. The League responded by condemning the invasion and imposing economic sanctions on Italy. However the sanctions excluded vital materials such as oil and were not carried out by all members of the League. The United Kingdom and France did not take any serious action against Italy (such as blocking Italian access to the Suez Canal).

Even actions such as the Italian use of chemical weapons and the massacre of civilians did little to change the League's passive approach to the situation.

In December 1935, Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare of Britain and Laval of France proposed the secret Hoare-Laval Plan which would end the war but allow Italy to control large areas of Ethiopia. Mussolini agreed to the plan, but it caused an outcry in Britain and France when the plan was leaked to the media. Hoare and Laval were accused of betraying the Abyssinians, and both resigned. The plan was dropped, but the perception spread that Britain and France were not serious about the principles of the League. After the plan was dropped, the war continued and Mussolini turned to German dictator Adolf Hitler for alliance.

All sanctions placed by the League were dropped after the Italian capture of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on 6 May 1936. Ethiopia was then merged with the other Italian colonies to become Italian East Africa ("Africa Orientale Italiana", or AOI).




ee also

* Timeline of the Second Italo–Abyssinian War
* Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of 1928
* Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1929
* Munich Crisis of 1939
* Italo Balbo
* Second Italo–Abyssinian War

External links

* [http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/abyssinia.htm Ethiopia 1935 to 1936]

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