Pre-War and Post-War Imperialism in Africa

May 29, 1935

Report Outline
Desire of Italy and Germany for Colonial Expansion
Partition of Africa Before the World War
Italian Imperalism in Africa
Background of Italo-Abyssinian Dispute

Desire of Italy and Germany for Colonial Expansion

Italy's Dispute with Abyssinia and recent Nazi moves to condition reentrance into the League of Nations on recognition of Germany's right to acquire colonies reflect the growing power of expansionist sentiment, in Italy and Germany. In the 40 years preceding the World War, almost the whole of Africa was partitioned off by the powers of Europe, but in 1914 neither Italy nor Germany looked upon her colonial empire as sufficiently extensive to meet the demands of economic need or national prestige. Germany under the Versailles treaty was deprived of all of her colonies, while Italy considered as an unsatisfactory liquidation of her claims the territory she gained as a consequence of her entrance into the war on the side of the Allies. The manifest desire of both countries for colonial expansion suggests the likelihood at some future date of a realignment—voluntary or otherwise—of colonial boundaries in Africa.

If, as many observers predict, hostilities are opened in Abyssinia when the rainy season ends in September, in spite of efforts to arbitrate the present controversy, international complications may speedily result. “The fight of Ethiopia to retain her independence,” Josef Israels said in an article in the New York Times on February 24, “may be the pivot on which the fate of peace in the Eastern Hemisphere revolves. The submersion of Ethiopia into the territories of European powers would unquestionably mean a realignment of the African map extending far beyond the territory immediately involved.” As long ago as April, 1927, Evans Lewin, secretary of the Royal Colonial Institute of London, predicted in an article in Foreign Affairs that Italy would undertake territorial expansion in Africa. “In view of the parallel movement in Germany,” he added, “there can be little doubt that the clash of European interests in Africa will assume before the end of the next decade a more ugly appearance than it has at present,” Italian policy in Abyssinia was attacked by Viscount Cecil, president of the League of Nations Union, on May 16. By ignoring her own obligations under the League, Lord Cecil pointed out, Italy could not fairly criticize German violations of the peace treaty. “It ‘is impossible,” he said, “to claim respect for the collective system in the north and flout it in the south.”

League Adjustment of Italo-Abyssinian Controversy

As a result of action taken by the League Council on May 25, the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, which began last December with an engagement at Ualual between Italian and Ethiopian troops, is to be arbitrated in conformity with the Italo-Abyssinian treaty of 1928. Resolutions adopted at Geneva provide for the submission of the claims of the two countries to a commission composed of two representatives of each of the disputants.

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May 29, 1935  Pre-War and Post-War Imperialism in Africa
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
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