Making their Voices Heard: Expressions of World Opinion to the League of Nations during the Italo-Ethiopian Dispute (1934-1938)
MetadataShow full item record
In December 1934 a frontier skirmish between the Italians and Ethiopians at Walwal in southern Ethiopia touched off the Italo-Ethiopian Dispute (1934-1938). This Dispute, brought before the League of Nations, was one of a number of events in the inter-war period that contributed to public concerns about collective security. The official record deals with the Dispute in the shadow of World War II, Germany, and Japan. Yet beyond the official record is another body of documents that sheds light not on what governments were doing, but on what the public--the people of the world--were thinking about the Dispute. Although not power brokers or major actors on the political stage, thousands of individuals wrote to the League. Organizations of all types--including labor, veterans, women's groups, church groups, and many others representing millions of people--sent correspondence to the League concerning the Dispute. This dissertation will look at correspondence sent to the League of Nations during the Italo-Ethiopian Dispute. I argue that the examination of world opinion changes the story of the interwar years, League of Nations historiography, and the Italo-Ethiopian Dispute by considering the ways ordinary people understood the events unfolding around them. This correspondence shows that people who contacted the League of Nations believed that their opinions should be heard and that they could influence change. Current understanding of the League of Nations is marred by ex post facto cynicism because of its ultimate failure to maintain world peace. Exploration of world opinion as it related to the Italo-Ethiopian Dispute allows us to see not only how seriously global citizens took the event as a threat to international security, but also allows us to glimpse a brief moment of global hope that the League would be able to keep the peace. In so doing this dissertation both supplements existing historiography on the Dispute and goes beyond it, exploring the period from the point of view of thousands of actors whose voices have never been heard.