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Hoare

Hoare

[hawr, hohr]
The Hoare-Laval Pact was a December 1935 proposal by British Foreign Secretary, Samuel Hoare and French Prime Minister Pierre Laval for ending the Italo-Ethiopian War. The Pact offered to partition Abyssinia (as Ethiopia was then called), and thus achieve Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's goal of making the independent nation of Abyssinia into an Italian colony.

Under the Pact, Italy would gain the best parts of Ogaden and Tigray, and economic influence over all the southern part of Abyssinia. Abyssinia would have a guaranteed corridor to the sea (but a poor one, called a "corridor for camels") at the port of Assab.

Mussolini was ready to agree to this, but he waited some days to make his opinion public. Meanwhile, the plan was leaked by a French newspaper on 13 December 1935, and denounced as a sell-out of the Abyssinians. The British government disassociated itself from the Pact, and both Hoare and Laval were forced to resign.

At that moment, both Britain and France were eager to have Italy rejoin the Stresa Front against Hitler's ambitions. Moreover, Mussolini wanted to end the Abyssinian war, due to the poor performance of his general, Marshall De Bono, and unexpectedly hard Abyssinian resistance.

Mussolini expected France and Britain to accept his aggression in Abyssinia, in return for earlier Italian support of Britain and France against the attempted German Anschluss of Austria in 1934. Mussolini moved several divisions to northeastern Italy, near the Austrian border, threatening forcible intervention in case of any German aggression against Austria.

Historians have differed over the significance of the Pact. A. J. P. Taylor argued that it was the event that "killed the League [of Nations]" and that the Pact "was a perfectly sensible plan, in line with the League's previous acts of conciliation from Corfu to Manchuria" which would have "ended the war; satisfied Italy; and left Abyssinia with a more workable, national territory" but that the "common sense of the plan was, in the circumstances of the time, its vital defect". The military historian Correlli Barnett has argued that if Britain alienated Italy, Italy "would be a potential enemy astride England's main line of imperial communication at a time when she was already under threat from two existing potential enemies at opposite ends of the line [Germany and Japan]. If – worse – Italy were to fight in a future war as an ally of Germany or Japan, or both, the British would be forced to abandon the Mediterranean for the first time since 1798". Therefore, in Barnett's view, it was "highly dangerous nonsense to provoke Italy" due to Britain's military and naval weakness and that therefore the Pact was a sensible option.

Notes

References

  • Ennio di Nolfo, Storia delle Relazioni Internazionali, ed. Laterza Bari 2000, ISBN 88-420-6001-1

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