Italy Invades Ethiopia

In Italy, Mussolini decided to act on his own imperialist ambitions. Italy's defeat by the Ethiopians at the battle of Adowa in 1896 still rankled after almost 40 years. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia, located in northeastern Africa. Although the Ethiopians resisted bravely, their outdated weapons were no match for Mussolini's tanks, machine guns, poison gas, and airplanes.

The Ethiopian king Haile Selassie (HY luh suh lah SEE) appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League voted sanctions against Italy for violating international law. League members agreed to stop selling weapons or other war materials to Italy. But the sanctions did not extend to petroleum, which fueled modern warfare. In addition, the League had no power to enforce the sanctions. By early 1936, Italy had conquered Ethiopia.

Hitler Violates the Treaty of Versailles

Hitler had also tested the will of the Western democracies, as well as of the League of Nations, and found it weak. First, he built up the German military in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. Then, in 1936, he sent troops into the “demilitarized” Rhineland bordering France—another treaty violation. Germans hated the Versailles treaty, and Hitler's successful challenge made him more popular at home.

Cartoon of a pile of men forming a set of stair steps, labeled spineless leaders of democracy. Each star is labeled as an issue or place, ending with the top star of boss of the universe. Hitler goose steps up the stairs.

Analyze Political Cartoons

British cartoonist David Low was known for speaking out against the policy of appeasement. How does this cartoon reflect his message?

The Western democracies denounced his moves but took no real action. Instead, they adopted a policy of appeasement, or giving in to the demands of an aggressor in order to keep the peace.

Reasons for Appeasement

The Western policy of appeasement developed for a number of reasons. France was demoralized, suffering from political divisions at home. It could not take on Hitler without British support. The British, however, had no desire to confront the German dictator. Some even thought that Hitler's actions constituted a justifiable response to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which they believed had been too harsh on Germany.

In both Britain and France, many saw Hitler and fascism as a defense against a worse evil—the spread of Soviet communism. Additionally, the Great Depression sapped the energies of the Western democracies. Finally, widespread pacifism, or opposition to all war, and disgust with the destruction from the previous war pushed many governments to seek peace at any price.

Photo of a group of soldiers in winter clothing on horseback, standing outside of a building.

Here, Japanese cavalry have successfully occupied the northern section of Manchuria. The freezing weather did not stop Japanese imperalism.


End ofPage 739

Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments