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What fueled Italian aggression in the 1930's? How did Mussolini's Italy fit into the overall strategic and political environment of Europe on the eve of the Second World War?

Questions addressed -
1) What conditions, both underlying and immediate, made Italy's breakout in the 1930s from the post-1918 settlement possible?

2) What were the motive forces behind the expansion and the calculations of the Italian leadership?

3) What options were open to the Western Powers, and why did they choose as they did, and with what results?

The following text was part of a study guide I constructed for the course "The Origins and Conduct of the Second World War" at the London School of Economics. It includes a timeline of notable events.

These notes are extensive, but should only form the basis for further research.

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Revolt of the Discontented:Italy
--what conditions, both underlying and immediate, made Italy's breakout in the 1930s from the post-1918 settlement possible? (Anglo-French preoccupation with Germany allowed Mussolini to move in Africa with the acquiescence of West - lesser role of Fascist ideology)

No Austro-Hungarian Empire - after WWI, Italy was no longer sandwiched between France/AH Empire.

WWI and the British Empire - now bigger but with power diminished. This vulnerability makes appeasement likely and allows for Italian expansion.

Lateran Pact - 1929 - establishes Vatican State and accommodation between Mussolini and the Pope

Manchurian Crisis - 1931 - demonstrates that the League of Nation is a sham

Italian rearmament - 1920-1930's - moderately large/new navy, large air force, leads to overestimation of Italian threat. In reality, Italy was incapable of fighting a modern war: resource poor, no aircraft carriers and tactical timidity of navy, army lacks efficient armor, old artillery, bad logistics, no doctrine of combined operations.

Poor Anglo-French relations: the Abyssian Crisis was a crisis in Anglo-French relations also. The French wanted to sit the fence (psychologically fixated on Germany) between the League and Italy, while the British needed the French to choose. Without French assistance, the UK didn't want to act, but they could use a French refusal to justify their inaction at home.

British worries of Three Pronged Threat: German, Italian and Japanese expansionist desires threatened a UK that was struggling to hold onto an empire without adequate military means. However, the fear of the Luftwaffe threat to London and the Japanese fleet in Singapore took precedence to the Italian ambitions in the Med. Until Mussolini's actions, British control of the Med was deemed secure ...