Courseworks

AS History Coursework

Part A: How far do the sources suggest consistent aims in Mussolini’s foreign policy 1922-1939?In order to decide whether or not Mussolini’s aims for his foreign policy were consistent between 1922 and 1939, we must first establish what his aims were.Mussolini wanted to pursue an aggressive foreign policy that would help him achieve dominance at home and overseas. He wanted to expand Italy into an empire, like it had been in the days of the Romans. This meant gaining African colonies, aswell as controlling the Mediterranean and some of the Balkan states. This would lead to his other aims; build national prestige, spread Fascism abroad, and hence gain domestic support for his regime.Source 1 is two assessments from Sir Ronald Graham, the British ambassador to Rome, one source was written in January 1923, and the other in June of the same year. In both of these accounts he gives his opinions of Mussolini’s aims within his foreign policy. He believed that “striking success in foreign policy is of vital importance to him” and that Mussolini’s foreign policy “is pure opportunism”. Graham also hints at why this is, “he is having serious trouble with sections of his own followers”.In the June dispatch, Graham gives a very similar opinion. “it (Mussolini’s foreign policy) is frankly opportunistic” and that “his foreign policy will be in the sole interests of Italy”.Although these two dispatches are written only five months apart, they are consistent in their opinions of Mussolini’s intended foreign policy.Source 2 is a painting, painted in 1935 entitled “The Freeing of the Abyssinian Slaves”. It shows an Italian soldier opening a door to a primitive hut full of Abyssinians. The painting literally depicts the Italian as showing the Abyssinians the light, which was of course Fascism. This conforms to the policy of spreading Fascism abroad.Source 3 is a part of Mussolini’s speech to the Grand Council of Fascism in which he talks about Italy’s position within the Mediterranean and how they should break out and expand their empire through the Mediterranean and then into Africa. This source justifies Graham’s belief in souce 1 where he says “striking success in foreign policy is of vital importance to him”. It also conforms to Mussolini’s aggressive foreign policy, showing his desire to expand his empire, and achieve dominance over African colonies.The only notable change in his policy from Grahams views in 1923, is his preference of an Ally. “Italy’s policy can have only one watchword – to march to the ocean. Which ocean? The Indian ocean…or the Atlantic…In either case we will find ourselves confronted with Anglo-French opposition.” Mussolini seems to give no regard to British or French opinion. In 1923 Graham stated “he (Mussolini) would prefer to work with Great Britain”.Source 5 even tells us of a part of one of Mussolini’s speeches in 1934 in which he was very anti-German. “people who were wholly illiterate in the days when Caesar, Virgil and Augustus flourished in Rome.” This means that whilst the Romans were flourishing the Germans were barbarians, implying that the German people are inferior to the Italians. This reaffirms Graham’s belief that Mussolini would prefer to work with Great Britain. Although in the years between 1934 and 1939 Hitler and Mussolini would agree upon a Rome-Berlin Axis (1936), the Anti Comintern Pact (1937), and the Pact of Steel (1939) which is source 6. Hitler also gave Mussolini support for the invasion of Abyssinia and in return Mussolini did not stop the Anchluss of Germany with Austria, to which many Italians objected. This can be attributed to Mussolini’s visit to Italy in 1935, as well as the isolation from the British and French after the economic sanctions imposed as a repercussion of the Abyssinian War.This, in effect meant a reversal in an aspect of Mussolini’s foreign policy, and Mussolini would begin to side with Hitler from 1935.Source 4 can help us to understand the reaction of the average Italian to Mussolini’s foreign policy, as well as tell what Mussolini wanted to achieve from it. It is written in 1944 by an Italian writer banished to the South, and is his account of the announcement of the Abyssinian War by a local Fascist official. He tells of how it was described as “the return of Italy to the eternal grandeur of Rome”. It is a good source to understand Mussolini’s reasons for invading Abyssinia. He wanted to expand his empire hence spread Fascism abroad and then in turn this would hopefully increase support for his regime and build up national prestige also.These six sources give a wide range of opinions about Mussolini’s foreign policy, spread over the period of sixteen years. Generally the sources all conform to Mussolini’s desire to pursue an aggressive foreign policy, by means of military strength in invading such places as Abyssinia. They all give the opinion that Mussolini was prepared to take his country to war in order to achieve his aims, yet there is one inconsistency in Mussolini’s foreign policy. From 1923 to 1935, Mussolini gives no indication of aggression towards the British or French, and even openly calls the Germans barbarians. Whereas in 1935 he praises the Germans and in 1939, a year before declaring war on them, announces that he is prepared to show aggression towards them in order to break through the Mediterranean and expand into Africa.

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