‘Britain’s attempts to appease Mussolini in the 1930’s were successful’ Explain why you agree or disagree with this view. (24 marks)
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Britain’s attempt to appease Mussolini were successful up until the Abyssinian crisis of 1935, as Italy were not in league with Germany but on the contrary, were opposed to German expansion and revision of the treaty of Versailles. However after the Abyssinian crisis, this stance from Mussolini disappeared and changed greatly. Hence British attempts becoming unsuccessful, as ultimately Mussolini entered the Second World War on the side of Germany.
Britain and Italy’s relationship was cordial before the Abyssinian crisis, indicating success in their appeasement policies. The Stresa front of 1935 between: Britain, France and Italy manifested this, as they agreed to prevent further revision of the treaty from Hitler and to resist him in his expansionist aims, and to also condemn Hitler’s actions. The Stresa front was suggested by Mussolini himself who was very co-operative and acted on the side of Britain and France as they all shared the same opinion on German rearmament. This showed how prepared Mussolini was to take action and stand against German aggression, as Mussolini was the only one who actually sent troops, during the Austrian Putsch of 1934, when the Nazi’s attempted to exploit Austria’s condition by trying to take over and employ a Nazi government. Italy was the only country who was prepared to take stance that was not mere condemnation but an actual military reaction, these clearly suggested Mussolini strong feelings in regards to Hitler. This found great success as they all agreed to it and this manifested Britain’s success in appeasement policies.
Although Britain applied economic sanctions with the league, the sanctions did not include oil, which was the main necessity required for Italy’s invasion, as they required oil to run their ships for transportation. Britain did not close the Suez Canal, which was a fundamental route for Mussolini to transport his troops by; this meant that Italy’s invasion was not severely obstructed. These actions seemed to have been undertaken to appease Mussolini and to prevent him from engaging in a ‘mad dog’ activity such as declaring war on Britain, this found success, as Mussolini did not declare war on Britain. This is another example of British success in their appeasement policies.
Before the Hoare-Lavale pact was leaked into to the public, it seemed as if Mussolini would accept this proposal. Hitherto the pact, Hoare, the British secretary worked well with Italy, and demonstrated a close relationship. If Mussolini had accepted then it would be a success, as Mussolini would still be on the side of Britain. This could be seen as some sort of success, as at first it did seem that it would be successful. Ultimately, it was a failure of British appeasement, as Mussolini did not accept the proposal to ‘save face’.
However, there were also many examples of British failure of appeasement, such as the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, which was poor example of British policy, as it did nothing but completely undermine, consequently damaging the Stresa front irrevocably. As it angered Mussolini greatly and it was almost as if Britain were stabbing the other members of the Front in the back, as they condemned Germany in the Stresa Front and then signed an agreement with them, allowing them some sort of navy.
Britain’s condemnation of Mussolini and the sanctions made him disgruntled and dissatisfied. These sanctions were an example of complete failure, as it achieved nothing at all. It was half hearted and it angered Mussolini at the same time, which pushed him into the arms of Germany, resulting in nothing being achieved. As during the time of the crisis, Hitler supported Mussolini and gained his favour, which ended up in them two signing pacts such as the Rome-Berlin axis and the pact of steel.
The policy of appeasement failed wholly in some respects, because Britain did not achieve her aim of keeping Mussolini on her side, which was what Britain wanted. But it ended up that Mussolini and Hitler became much closer as they supported the Fascist group during the Spanish Civil War, by both sending troops to aid them, while Britain stood idly by doing nothing. The acceptance of the Anschluss from Italy was a great success for Germany and a greater blow to the treaty and Britain. Mussolini invaded and conquered Abyssinia in the end, which was the result of Britain’s half-hearted sanctions. This also gave confidence to both Mussolini and Hitler, as it showed them how feeble and indecisive Britain during the Abyssinian crisis, giving them the impression that they could perform such acts again.
In conclusion, Britain’s policies of appeasement were successful up until the Hoare-Laval pact, as from then on; British appeasement failed and became unsuccessful, because Italy ended up on Germany’s side in the Second World War. Also after the Abyssinian crisis, appeasement could be seen as an unnecessary policy, due to the fact that Mussolini was on Hitler’s side. Yet Britain pressed on with appeasement, such as the Easter Accords, which accepted the status quo of the Middle East and Abyssinia, but this is negligible as Mussolini did not actually stick to it and did not achieve anything. The successful examples were not significant overall, as the unsuccessful cases were more prevalent and outweigh them.