Title: The Abyssinian Crisis
Aim: To find out how the League dealt with
the Italian invasion of Abyssinia
This cartoon of 1933, by the British
cartoonist David Low, is entitled: 'The
Doormat'. It shows a Japanese
soldier trampling all over the League,
whilst League officials bow down
before him and the British Foreign
Secretary John Simon powders the
League's nose using a 'Face-saving
What is the cartoonist suggesting
about the League... the Japanese
Army... John Simon and the other
• Abyssinia was an African
country that had not yet been
made a European colony. It had
good farmland and many
minerals. It was surrounded by
European colonies, including
Eritrea and Somaliland, both
• In 1896, Italian troops invaded
Abyssinia, but were beaten at
the Battle of Adowa.
• In 1928, Italy signed a treaty of
friendship with Abyssinia.
• In the 1930s, it became clear
that the Italian dictator,
Mussolini, was preparing to go
to war to take Abyssinia.
Mussolini and the League of
Nations, January – October 1935
The League did not
want a clash with
Mussolini. Britain and
France wanted him to
be their ally against
Hitler in Germany.
that neither the
League nor Britain
and France would act
if he took Abyssinia.
Italy attacks Abyssinia, October
• In October 1935, Italy
invaded Abyssinia. The
Italians used modern
weapons, including tanks,
planes and poison gas.
The Abyssinians did not
have weapons like these.
• The only hope for their
Selassie, lay in the size
of the country, the poor
state of the roads and an
appeal to the League of
The League’s response
• This was clearly a case of
the strong invading the
weak. The League
should have defended
Abyssinia. The first step,
according to the League’s
Covenant, was economic
sanctions. The League
set up a committee to
decide on sanctions
What the League decided to do
1. The sale of weapons and
some goods to Italy was
2. No League member was to
buy Italian goods or lend
1. Vital oil and coal were still
sold to Italy, to protect US
and British trade.
2. Italian ships were still
allowed to use the Suez
3. Mussolini’s main supply
route to Abyssinia.
The Hoare – Laval Pact
Meanwhile, the British and French
foreign ministers, Hoare and
Laval, drew up a plan to end the
war. They suggested that
Abyssinia should be split into two.
Italy would get the best area for
farming and minerals. Halie
Selassie would get the poor,
mountainous land. The plan was
leaked to the press and there was
a huge outcry. Britain and France
were clearly putting their interests
ahead of the interests of the
League, Hoare and Laval were
forced to resign. This damaged
the League’s reputation.
The Italians continued
fighting in Abyssinia. In
May 1936, they captured
the capital city, Addis
Ababa. Haile Selaisse
managed to escape to
Geneva and appealed to
the League for more help.
The next step for the
League would be to
gather an army to turn
Mussolini out of
Abyssinia. The League
The end of the League of Nations
In March 1936, the German
dictator, Hitler, sent troops
into the Rhineland, breaking
the Treaty of Versailles. The
League had done nothing.
It’s failure to act in Abyssinia
marked the end of the
League’s influence, even
though it was not formally
broken up until 1946. In
October 1936, Hitler and
Mussolini made the Rome-
Berlin Axis agreement.
Another world war was
Why did the League fail?
• The League did not meet often. It needed all decisions
to be agreed by every member: this made it difficult for it
to make quick decisions.
• The USA was not a member. The USSR did not join
until 1934. Germany and Japan left in 1933. Italy left in
• Sanctions, especially without US support, did not work.
• The League had no army, did not want to fight and had
trouble with raising an army from its members.
• The League was supposed to uphold the peace treaties
of 1919-20. these were now seen as unfair.
What were the implications of the
• Japan, Italy and Germany all broke League rules and
kept the land they invaded. The only action they faced
was the disapproval of other countries.
• The only way the League could save itself from failure
was by rapid action. It was not set up to act quickly. It
was not able to agree to raise an army to defend its
• This showed that the League could not make collective
• Weak nations realised they could not rely on the League
to protect them.
• Britain and France saw the League did not work against
dictators. They began to build up their armies.
Match these words to the events
on the topic of the League of
• 1. Geneva, Switzerland. • Were imposed on Italy by the
• 2. Manchukuo. League, but they did not include
• 3. The Lytton Commission. oil.
• 4. Adowa. • Was a battle in 1896 that the
Italians lost to Abyssinia.
• 5. Hoare and Laval. • Was where the League was
• 6. Haile Selassie. based.
• 7. Sanctions. • Agreed a pact to split up
• Was appointed by the League to
report on the Japanese takeover
• Was the name the Japanese gave
to Manchuria after their takeover.
• Was Emperor of Abyssinia at the
time of the Italian invasion.