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Italy in the 1930s

This map is part of a series of 19 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1918-1942.

In 1934, the Fascists in Italy managed to undermine Germany’s attempt to annex Austria and sought closer relations with European democracies.  It created the “Stresa Front” with France and the United Kingdom, as a way of standing up to Germany’s plans for expansion. This alliance fell through.  

Italy was in fact seeking to increase its colonial empire, in particular in the Horn of Africa where it already held territory in Eritrea and Somalia. In October 1935, Mussolini attacked Ethiopia, the last independent state in Africa, and was condemned by the League of Nations which voted economic sanctions against Italy. However, these sanctions did little to force Mussolini into withdrawing and only pushed Italy into a closer relationship with Germany.

Their diplomatic rapprochement was marked by the creation of the “Rome-Berlin Axis”, which was later extended to include Japan. The two dictatorships also intervened in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Franco’s Nationalists against the Republicans.

On the domestic front, Mussolini followed in the footsteps of his Nazi ally: he made his regime more rigid by adopting totalitarian structures. Italian society became increasingly submissive and militarized, while the government introduced anti-Semite legislation in 1938.

The following year, Mussolini invaded Albania and signed an alliance with Hitler, known as the “Pact of Steel”.

In June 1940, Italy entered the World War as Germany’s ally. Following Italy’s failures in the Balkans and North Africa, Hitler was forced to help Mussolini, now increasingly dependent on his ally and much weakened within Italy itself.