1925-1935 History of Italy 1939-1943

Italy, 1935-1939

Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Cultural History

Foreign Policy . When Hitler assumed the chancellorship in Germany in January 1933, Mussolini regarded him as somebody who tried to imitate him; when Austria's chancellor Dollfuss on 1934 was assassinated by Nazis, Mussolini, regarding himself Austria's protector, had Italian troops march to the Brenner Pass (on Italy's border to Austria).
In 1935 Italy and France signed a treaty according to which France would cede the Aouzou Strip (northern Chad) to Italy; following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia the treaty was not ratified by France's parliament.
In 1935, Mussolini ordered the invasion of Ethiopia, a member of the League of Nations. The Italians, using poison gas, overcame determined resistance and in 1936 had conquered the capital of Addis Ababa. The League of Nations responded by calling on their member states to impose Economic Sanctions against Italy.
These sanctions proved to be rather effective, as Italy's most important trading partner had been France, which abided to the sanctions. A country which ignored the sanctions and even announced it's withdrawal from the League of Nations was Germany. Although Germany could not replace France as Italy's trading partner, Italy became economically dependent on Germany.

When Popular Front governments (coalitions including communists) were elected into office in France and Spain in 1936, British foreign policy, fearing a potential Alliance consisting of the USSR, France and Spain, contemplated an anti-Communist alliance with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. While such an alliance did not materialize, the UK made political concessions; among the first, Britain lifted economic sanctions against Italy.
Since 1936 the Spanish Civil War was raging. Italy and Germany nominally joined the nations imposing a blockade on Spain's coast to prevent the import of weapons. Italy however broke this nominal neutrality by sending 'volunteer forces' as well as arms to join the Falangists.

By 1937 the French Popular Front government disintegrated, and Falangists made progress in the Spanish Civil War; the danger of a potential communist-dominated alliance in Europe was perceived by the British Foreign Office as less imminent.
The Spanish Civil War had resulted in the political order established by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1919-1920 being questioned; the two powers, Britain and France, who had guaranteed this political order had been at odds with each other. Mussolini chose to give up the status of remaining an ally of the British (as which Churchill would have liked to see Fascist Italy), regarding the new geopolitical situation as bringing opportunities for the realization of his expansionist goals. In 1937 Italy joined the Anti-Comintern Pact concluded by Germany and Japan in 1936; in 1938 Austria's Anschluss to Germany was executed without any Italian protest. Italia annexed Albania in 1939. Also in 1939 Italy and Germany signed the Steel Pact, a defensive alliance.

Domestic Policy . In November 1938, Italy, in imitation of Nazi Germany, passed the Race Laws, depriving Italy's Jews of their Italian citizenship, barring Italians from marrying Jews, excluding Jews from holding jobs in the public sector etc. The first Concentration Camps were established on Italian soil in 1939.

The Economy . The Economic Sanctions imposed by the League of Nations in 1935 had a significant impact on Italy's economy, as the country lost her largest export market - France, as well as her most important supplier of imported goods - France again. Germany and the U.S. did not impose the sanctions; the United Kingdom in 1935 imposed the sanctions, but terminated them in 1936. While the sanctions failed to convince Italy to withdrew her forces from Ethiopia, they had shifted Italy's economic dependence on France to an economic dependence on Germany.
In the late 1930es, Europe was slowly recovering from the worst phase of the Great Depression. Italy avoided the social ills caused by mass unemployment by nationalizing bankrupt companies and continuing to operate them.

Cultural History . In 1938 Italy won the Soccer World Cup held in France, defending the title she won in 1934 by defeating Hungary in the final 4-2. In 1938, Italian Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics; he left Italy that year; his wife was Jewish.

Cronologia, Italian language site on Italian and World History
History of Italy : Monarchy, from Wikipedia
Biography of Benito Mussolini, from The World at War
Futurism Website, with timeline (1909-1944), manifestos, images etc.
Italian Life under Fascism, online exhibition by Library Univ. of Wisconsin
La Italia feixista (1922-1944), from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
Italian Camps, by Edward Victor
Italy, Italy and the Spanish Civil War, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Life in Mussolini's Italy, from History Learning Site
Article Aouzou Strip, from Wikipedia
History of Grand Prix Races at Monza, from monzanet
Cristiano Andrea Ristuccia, 1935 Sanctions against Italy : Would Coal and Crude Oil Have Made a Difference ? (1997)
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Italy
Historical Population Statistics : Italy, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Italian troops in Abyssinia; Italian unit before marching into Abyssinia; In Abyssinia it becomes obligatory to greet images of Mussolini; Italian tanks approach Addis Ababa
Italy's Racial Laws, 1938ff, from Associazione Nationale Miriam Novitch, in Italian
Some Documents Relevant to the Alliance of Germany, Japan and Italy during WW II, posted by WW II Sources at ibiblio
Concentration Camp Listing, from Jewish Virtual Library
REFERENCE History Book Reviews : Italy under Fascism, 1922-1945

Article Italy, in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia, Vol.22 pp.165-247, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.22
Christopher Duggan, A Concise History of Italy, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1994, pp.220-235
Aristotle A. Kallis, Fascist Ideology, Territory and Expansionism in Italy and Germany, 1922-1945, Routledge 2000, 304 pp.
MacGregor Knox, Hitler's Italian Allies, Royal Armed Forces, Fascist Regime and the War of 1940-1943, Cambridge UP, 2000, 210 pp.
Martin Clark, Profiles in Power : Mussolini, Harlow : Pearson 2005 [G]
Chapters XV : Mussolini, pp.235-254; XVI : Who Else in Italy ? pp.255-267; XVII : War in Abyssinia, pp.268-281, in : John Gunther, Inside urope, 1940 war edition, NY : Harper & Bros. 1940 [G]
Article : Italy, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1937 pp.1061-1080 [G]
Article : Italy, in : Americana Annual 1936 pp.381-383, 1937 pp.363-366, 1938 pp.349-353, 1939 pp.388-392 [G]
Article : Italo-Ethiopian War, in : Americana Annual 1936 pp.377-381 (on events of 1936) [G]
Article : Italy, in : New International Year Book 1938 pp.358-362, 1939 pp.385-390 [G]
Article : Italy, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1936 pp.270-275, 1937 pp.278-282, 1938 pp.280-284, 1939 pp.306-312 [G]
VIDEOS Mussolini - Italy's Nightmare, documentary from A & E biography

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First posted in 2000, last revised on March 2nd 2007

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