Tag Archives: League of Nations

Advance, Work, Fight, If Necessary

Benito Mussolini addresses the world from the city of Turin, Italy on October 23, 1932
Benito Mussolini addresses the world from the city of Turin, Italy on October 23, 1932.


Telling the World by John Knott depicts the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during his 1932 address in the city of Turin, Italy. The speech occurred in the midst of the tenth anniversary of the Fascist Party’s March on Rome in October 1922, when Mussolini was appointed as Italy’s fascist head of government by King Victor Emmanuel III (De Grand 513). The Italian dictator’s balcony, illustrated in Knott’s cartoon, evokes the baroque architectural style of Turin’s buildings. As Mussolini stated in his speech, “Turin is a Roman city,” and according to his regime, 1932 was Year X of “The New Era” in the “Third Rome” (“Benito Mussolini” 273). However, by the time of Mussolini’s visit to Turin, Europe was still reeling from the consequences of World War I. Despite fervent calls by European allies for the cancellation of German war reparations, emphasized at the Lausanne Conference in the summer of 1932, the United States refused to accept the mandatory condition that all European debts to the U.S. be cancelled as well (Bemis 55). This decision, combined with the League of Nations’ insistence that Germany was to be denied juridical parity, only served to aggravate tensions in the region. Furthermore, looming over the world and compounding the western dilemma was The Great Depression, a burdening force which would not cease for a decade.

In Knott’s cartoon, Mussolini is holding a globe before him as he asserts his position on the world’s affairs. His discontented expression and clenched fist indicate that he his making demands to resolve conflicts threatening his regime. Depicted on the globe, Africa and Europe face the audience, as North America is subjected to the Italian dictator’s scrutinous glare. This scowling expression carries a direct challenge to the United States, “. . . the ship of reparations and war debts entered the port of Lausanne. Are the great people of the star-spangled republic going to send this vessel, which was filled with sorrow and blood of so many peoples, back to the open waters?” (Mussolini 1932). In this statement he addresses the imperious nature of the U.S. pursuit of war reparations from Europe, and its significance in impacting western politics. Mussolini’s Turin speech took place only a month prior to the US Presidential Election of 1932. According to “Mussolini and the Crisis,” the Dallas Morning News editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, then-candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt was thought to have been more sympathetic toward the idea of debt cancellation than his opponent, Herbert Hoover. Mussolini appeared to time his appeal to the US in order to influence the vote of Italian Americans toward Roosevelt (Dallas Morning News 2). The Lausanne Conference was a pivotal point in the decision to end or continue war debts, and the United States was the eminent faction in determining the outcome. Unfortunately, The Great Depression was well entrenched in America during this time, leading the struggling nation to assert its demands for reparations to a continent likewise hindered by economic downturn.

The historically industrial city of Turin was home to many unemployed and disgruntled labor workers at the time of Mussolini’s 1932 address. As the Dallas Morning News editorial begins, “Premier Mussolini took his life in his hands when he addressed the semihostile citizens of Turin” (2). Workers throughout Italy directed their blame and animosity toward the current political institutions whose policies they believed were failing to remedy the country’s postwar ailments (Atkins 271). Adding more pressure to the desperate nation and to Mussolini’s government was The Great Depression, which had begun with the Wall Street collapse only three years prior.

Italy’s involvement in World War I came at an immense cost. Though neutral at its commencement, the Treaty of London eventually situated Italy in the conflict alongside France and Britain, with promises from the Entente powers that Italy would be compensated with sought-after territories in Austria-Hungary and Africa (Karabell 96). By the war’s conclusion, however, Italy’s military was nearly decimated; and the country was economically, politically, and socially ravaged (Atkins 270).  Further deteriorating postwar conditions in Italy, its efforts as one of the Allies against the Central Powers were minimized at the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and Italy received meager recompense for its losses (Atkins 271). Postwar debt, high inflation and unemployment, as well as low morale resulting from enormous war casualties, left the population embittered and desperate for change (Atkins 271). Hostility and violence in the country, along with radical war-induced nationalism, instigated the formation of an aggressive political party grounded in Mussolini’s fascist ideology (“World War I” 2765).

Although he did not explicitly mention France, Mussolini certainly held a vendetta against the country, as evident in his Turin speech. As “Mussolini and the Crisis” editorial points out, Turin is located near the Italian border with France, and Mussolini appeared to choose this city for his address in order to send a provocative message (Dallas Morning News 2). Much of Italy, including its head of government, still resented France for the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles. France gained a great deal of territory while Italy received little of what it was promised in comparison. This issue was also of great concern for Mussolini when considering the state of Germany in the European scene.

The League of Nations, founded by the Treaty of Versailles, was hesitant to grant Germany juridical parity within the organization, despite that it was a member. Its most prominent and influential member, of course, was France. Mussolini feared that France sought hegemony in Europe through its recent territorial acquisitions and its refusal to treat Germany as an equal country. In his Turin speech, he emphasized the importance of German parity in the League of Nations as necessary to prevent hegemonies in Europe, and indicated that Italy was prepared to resist any attempts by France to establish hegemony over another European country. This decision to side with Germany was a prelude to the fascist alliance that would form between the two countries in the second World War.

The complexities of western political affairs in the 1930s cannot be understated. By October 1932, Europe had already begun to brew a second world war. The Allies refused to acknowledge the impact of their decisions in formulating the rise of the fascist dictators Mussolini and Hitler. Poor and desperate populations suffering from economic depression rallied behind the aggressive, nationalistic political parties that sought to take advantage of power vacuums left by World War I. At that time, Fascism was a promise to put the unemployed to work, but also an engine of resentment fueled by losses in the Great War. In time these factors would culminate in a conflict far more catastrophic than the one that caused it.


Works Cited

Atkins, William Arthur. “Strike Wave: Italy.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, edited by Neil Schlager, vol. 2, St. James Press, 2004, pp. 270-273. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3408900274/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=6601c1eb. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. “Lausanne Agreement.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 55. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3401802329/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=8407df53. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.

“Benito Mussolini.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 11, Gale, 2004, pp. 272-274. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404704665/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=98c7abb0. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

“Comparison with the League of Nations.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, edited by Melissa Sue Hill, 14th ed., vol. 1: United Nations, Gale, 2017, pp. 7-9. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3652100020/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=7a09ea1b. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

De Grand, Alexander. “Fascism and Nazism.” Encyclopedia of European Social History, edited by Peter N. Stearns, vol. 2: Processes of Change/Population/Cities/Rural Life/State & Society, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001, pp. 509-517. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3460500112/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=5c8cbac6. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

“Fascism.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 102-105. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3045300802/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=f4ab522f. Accessed 29 Mar. 2018.

Karabell, Zachary. “London, Treaty of (1913).” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 1446. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3424601697/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d1d0e452. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John. Telling the World, 25 Oct. 1932.

“Mussolini and the Crisis.” Dallas Morning News, 25 Oct. 1932. Page 2.


“Mussolini’s Speech, Turin 1932.” Readable, www.allreadable.com/1267LckD.

Mussolini’s Turin Speech, 1932. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgmcoUjHNBU.

STRANG, G. (2001). IMPERIAL DREAMS: THE MUSSOLINI–LAVAL ACCORDS OF JANUARY 1935. The Historical Journal, 44(3), 799-809.

“World War I.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2751-2766. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3447000917/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d2f9a9b5. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.


Dirty Work

France (represented as a person) climbs up the side of a mountain, tethered to and pulling up Russia. Hitler hides nearby with a knife, eyeing the rope connecting Russia and France.
France and Russia, tethered together with a rope, climb up the side of a cliff while Hitler hides nearby, holding a knife.

In John Knott’s political cartoon, Dirty Work (published March 15th, 1937), the intentions of France and Germany to sway Russia in their favor are depicted as climbers on a mountain. France is pulling Russia towards a renewed alliance with Britain, while Germany lies in wait to sever the ties between them.

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the presumptive heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. One by one, the European powers were dragged into the conflict” (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). World War I, the international conflict between the Allied powers of France, Britain, Russia, Italy,  and the United States and the Axis powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria would critically change relations between European countries. In 1907, Britain, France, and Russia had already formed an understanding known as the Triple Entente. Italy decided to join the Entente in 1915 instead of siding with Germany. Prior,  France and Russia formed a cordon-sanitaire, or agreement, to protect one another in 1914. This group of nations was powerful opposition to the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. The two opposing sides continued fighting until Germany signed an armistice in November of 1918 (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). Despite the agreement for peace, Germany remained bitter and relations between European nations became extremely strained.

A year after the close of World War I, tensions between countries remained high. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Allies and a reluctant Germany. The agreement dictated that Germany’s Rhineland region would be occupied by an Ally army in order to ensure French security. Angered with the troops stationed so close to home and a part of everyday life, German citizens grew tired of the presence of Allied troops. When these occupiers attempted to form separatist governments, German citizens began to passively resist. For instance, “workers stayed home, and the civilian population refused to cooperate with the French occupiers” (Merriman and Winter). As tensions rose between the two opposing forces, “the new German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann called off passive resistance and began negotiations with France” (Andrea and Neel). Members of the German foreign office laid the framework for Locarno, an agreement designed to drastically improve relations with the French. Stresemann improved the idea, expanding the pact to include Britain and Italy, guaranteeing the territorial status quo of western Europe. In addition to the peace agreement, there would be no German military presence in Rhineland as a gesture of goodwill. The Locarno agreements were enacted in London in December of 1926.

Despite these agreements temporarily pacifying the opposing countries, the new Nazi Germany and France again butted heads. “In March 1936 Germany sent troops into the Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles, declaring that the situation envisaged at Locarno had been changed by the Franco-Soviet alliance of 1935” (Britannica). While France argued that this was a direct violation of Locarno, nothing was done, for Britain did not share the same claim. Nazi Germany was a threat looming on the horizon and France’s hope for positive political negotiation was dim. In the accompanying editorial to Dirty Work entitled No Locarno, the desire of both France and Britain to form a new agreement with Germany is discussed as unlikely to come to fruition. Germany refused to put itself in a position to be so easily controlled. New leadership in Germany would not be so cooperative. Stresemann, who had facilitated the creation of Locarno, was replaced as German foreign minister by Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop and Hitler, referred to in the editorial as “fascist Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” looked to entice Britain and France into understandings that Germany had no intention of keeping. For Germany, however, the “bug under the chip,” or something undesirable subtlely attached to something valuable, was the French-Russian cordon sanitaire of 1914 (Editorial). If France was attacked, Russia would come to its aid and vice versa. While Nazi Germany was ambitious, it would not be able to survive an attack on two fronts from both Russia and France. Thus, the relations between Russia and France needed to be eliminated in the interest of Germany. Nazi Germany also had to entice Britain and France into an agreement OUTSIDE of the League of Nations, the international organization formed between countries after World War I. Both France and Britain wanted the backing of this organization and the countries that participated in it. Germany’s main goal then was to sever the ties between Russia and France.

John Knott’s political cartoon Dirty Work depicts the goals of the various nations through characterization of France, Russia, and Hitler as climbers on a mountain. While Hitler is portrayed as himself, France and Russia are sketched as what one might assume the typical Russian or French person to look like. France and Russia are tethered together with a rope that represents the cordon sanitaire between the two. Hitler, hoping to cut the tie between France and Russia, hides just around the corner with a knife. If the rope were cut, Russia would fall without something to support it. In 1937, Russia was going through the Great Purge, a period of political oppression under the Soviet Union. It was on the verge of collapse with no external stimulus (Rittersporn). Hitler’s knife would not only sever its ties but allow Russia to run itself into the ground. The knife, while not drawn to represent a physical act in 1937, eventually became the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, ending the cordon sanitaire as Russia and Germany promised to not counter the actions of one another. With this in place, Germany waited a single week before invading Poland, a country under the protection of France and Britain. Thus, World War II began.

It is evident that no treaty is perfect. There are always concessions to be made and hard lines to be drawn. What is vital to the future of peace between countries is understanding the balance between compromise, necessity, and the importance of working together as opposed to against one another. The inability of nations to bridge the gap between the goals and necessities of each country led to the death of millions. Unfortunately, this lack of meaningful and effective agreements between countries persists today. It is uncertain just how detrimental the effects of current decisions will be on the future of the human race.

Works Cited:

Axelrod, Alan. “Ribbentrop, Joachim von (1893–1946) Nazi German foreign minister (1933–1945).” Encyclopedia of World War II, edited by Jack A. Kingston, vol. 1, Facts on File, 2007, p. 689. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX4067800556&it=r&asid=eebdb853d57e8646f13df326a8a63383. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

“German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.” Encyclopedia Britannica, edited by The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 22 Jul 2016. https://www.britannica.com/event/German-Soviet-Nonaggression-Pact

Karabell, Zachary. “Eden, Anthony [1897–1977].” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 755. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3424600873&it=r&asid=8872902e8a07698ec62fcc7c67dcaa3b. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Knott, John. “Dirty Work.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937.

“Locarno Pact.” World History Encyclopedia, edited by Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel, vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 583-585. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2458803623&it=r&asid=99045c1562ff275fc3e1c4c109a04b57. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Mombauer, Annika. “Alliance System.” Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 47-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3446900030&it=r&asid=023dc0910917a3301c8e3da5b6cffe43. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

“No Locarno.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937. p.5

“Pact of Locarno.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Oct. 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Pact-of-Locarno. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

“Rhineland Occupation.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and  Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2217-2221. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3447000751&it=r&asid=ae5e37e051910a79f9c6de5a484271b2. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Rittersporn, Gabor T. “Purges, The Great.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1247-1251. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?

“World War I (1914–1919).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War, vol. 1, Gale, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3048500018&asid=6aaa3eab990420667484bc968b96a420. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.


Drunk with Power


A drunken Mussolini slurs "" as two men representing Britain and France resentfully stand to the side, watching Italy's celebration.
A drunken Mussolini slurs “you ‘pologize an’ we’re all frien’s again – am I right? -” as two men representing Britain and France stand to the side, watching Italy’s celebration. A man drinking from a swastika mug sits in the background.

The first major international conflict to occur after World War I took place in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria, a region then governed by China. Following this event, the League of Nations, a coalition of nations functioning to prevent war, failed to take action to punish Japan for committing this act of war. In May of 1936, another member of the League of Nations, Italy, conquered Ethiopia, a weaker, less influential ally of the League of Nations that had been a member since 1923 (“League of Nations”). As in Manchuria, the League failed to protect Ethiopia, discrediting the League. Ultimately, Italian victory in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War destroyed the global perception of the League of Nations in the years leading up to World War II, especially creating tension among prominent League members like England and France.

In John Knott’s political cartoon titled “Drunk with Power,” published in May of 1936, Knott clearly demonstrates this tense dynamic between England, France, and Italy. In this cartoon, Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy at the time, sits drinking wine from a bottle that says “African Victory Celebration.” He drunkenly gestures to Britain and France and says “You ‘pologize an’ we’re all frein’s again- am I right?-”  Britain and France are standing together off to the side, looking back at Mussolini with eyes of resentment. Hitler sits alone at a table in the background, drinking alone (Knott). Mussolini’s statement alludes to Britain and France’s desire to maintain positive relations with Italy in spite of Italy’s divisive decision to enter war with a League Ally. Additionally, the caption reads “The Prodigal Son Returns,” which is also the title of the accompanying editorial, published alongside Knott’s cartoon in the May 8, 1936 edition of the Dallas Morning News, which examines Italy’s foreign policy after conquering Ethiopia, and disobeying the fundamental doctrines of the League.

England and France receive clear representation in this cartoon because they were perceived as the most powerful members of the League of Nations by many countries, especially after their victory in World War I, and their active role as “big four” members in forming the League of Nations (Nichols). Correspondingly, both nations were expected to use the established framework of the League of Nations to resolve the growing conflict between Italy and Ethiopia; however, Britain and France instead chose to work outside of the League, fearing that “decisive action by the League would result in pushing Mussolini into an alliance with Hitler,” (Wemlinger 36). In early 1935, both nations chose to privately assure Mussolini that they would not attempt to prevent him from using military power to carry out his Ethiopian conquests; Mussolini soon after conquered Ethiopia.

This event served as a decisive moment in the history of the League of Nations, and key point in understanding the causes of World War II. Britain and France, founding members of the League, a coalition created with the purpose of “providing avenues of escape from war”, failed to prevent a powerful ally from conquering a smaller ally (“League of Nations”). Although these actions were carried out with the strategic intent of pacifying Italy, they sent a message to the world: the league would not fulfil its obligation to protect any nation or prevent war.

However, international perception of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict strongly favored Ethiopia, which placed Britain and France in a difficult position (Wemlinger 39). In late 1935, the British Foreign Secretary stated that “the League stands, and my country stands with it, for the collective maintenance of the Covenant in its entirety, and particularly for steady and collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression,” (Wemlinger 39). This disparity between Britain and France’s public support for the League’s obligations, and private negotiations with Italy, is cause for the tense dynamic presented in Knott’s cartoon “Drunk with Power.” By May of 1936 when the cartoon was published, Britain, France, and the League of Nations had conceded to Mussolini’s power-hungry objectives.

For this reason, Mussolini becomes “drunk with power” from his African victory wine, accompanied by two particularly sober figures representing Britain and France. Mussolini had succeeded in forgoing his obligations to the League without consequence, whereas Britain and France had only narrowly avoided losing their necessary alliance with Italy to Germany and Hitler; Italy was “ready to quit” the League “if the council [interfered ] in her dispute with Ethiopia”(Associated P). Knott includes the image of Hitler in the background, distant from Britain, France, and Italy, with an unhappy look on his face and a glass that has a swastika on it in his hand. For Hitler, who may have been seeking to weaken opposing European alliances, the preservation of the alliance between the three nations may have served as upsetting news; he is not drinking to celebrate, but instead to mourn his diplomatic loss. Britain and France, similarly unhappy with the League’s failure and Italy’s victory, stand off to the side of Italy. By 1936, both nations had to accept Italy’s victory, and welcome Italy back into the League, as if the nation were a “prodigal son,” returning home after doing wrong, and claiming to reform their actions in the future. In the editorial that was published alongside Knott’s cartoon, “Prodigal Son Returns,” the writer outlines Italy’s claim that it only “[wanted] peace and [wished] to strengthen the league,” even after taking several actions to undermine the League. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand the complex dynamic depicted in the cartoon. Italy expected Britain and France to “‘pologize” for the times they publicly opposed Italy’s actions in Ethiopia, and Britain and France did so, but begrudgingly. The League of Nations had been disgraced, and Britain and France from there on would have to face the consequences of this outcome, all while catering to the whims of a “drunk with power” Italian ally.

After Italy’s victory in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, the League of Nations was made ineffective in the eyes of nations all over the world. This outcome resonates in modern society, as many view the United Nation’s attempts to prevent humanitarian crises in nations like Syria with anything more than sanctions and ceasefires. In evaluating the events of the past, we must look to present times, and gain understanding of our future.

Works Cited

Associated P. “League is Told to Stay Out of African Tilt.” The Washington Post (1923-1954): 1. Jun 21 1935. ProQuest. Web. 29 Nov. 2016 .

Knott, John. “Drunk with Power.” The Dallas Morning News 8 May 1936, sec. 2: 8. Print.

“Prodigal Son Returns.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News 8 May 1936, sec. 2: 8. Print.

Nichols, Christopher McKnight. “Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Ed. Robert D. Johnston. Vol. 4: From the Gilded Age through the Age of Reform, 1878 to 1920. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 383-387. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“League of Nations.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 1628-1631. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.


Suggestion for Historical Mural

Suggestion for historical mural

Going against the wishes of the League of Nations, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and his italian army invaded Ethiopia in an effort to gain an advantage in the imperialistic race Europe found itself in at the time. This increased tension between Italy and other members of the League of Nations, particularly England and France.

In the Knott cartoon, a man is dressed in Ancient Roman robes and a laurel wreath. He is labeled as Mussolini and Caesar. Mussolini rides a horse drawn chariot through the street under an arch labeled “Roma”, surrounded by an enormous crowd and people leaning out of windows waving flags. The design of the town is evocative of ancient Rome. Being marched behind him, attached to the chariot by the neck with a rope, is a bedraggled black man wearing nothing but a large barrel, labeled Ethiopia.

This cartoon references the Italo-Ethiopian war, an armed conflict which was one of the leading causes to world war II and ended in the subjugation of Ethiopia by the Italian forces.One of the reasons for this conflict was imperialism. Before World War I, European countries were racing to colonize Africa — this competition was a major inciting factor for the war. One of the reasons for the creation of the league of nations after the war was to settle disputes between nations and avoid further war. They pushed for the disarmament and demilitarization of nations involved in the first war in an effort to seek and maintain peace. However, during this time Benito Mussolini and his movement of fascism rose to power in Italy. He became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and focused on the expansion of the Italian military forces. By the late 1930s, he had used his military to invade Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Albania, making Italy a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean area.

The Italo-Ethiopian war was a significant one of Mussolini’s conquests. Ethiopia was one of the few independent countries in the European colonized continent; Italy had tried and failed to acquire it as a colony in the late 19th century. A small border conflict between Ethiopia and the Italian controlled Somalia gave Mussolini the justification for invading Ethiopia. The rationale was that Ethiopia was to be held accountable for the conflict, but the real motive was to gain the resources and boost Italian prestige.

This was exactly what the league of nations wanted to avoid. It denounced Italy’s invasion and tried to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but it was ultimately ineffective due to lack of support. The conquest of Ethiopia angered the british, who had colonized East Africa and worried about maintaining their control, but other major powers had no real reason to interfere with Italy. Supporting the rise of fascism within Europe, this war contributed to the tensions between fascist regimes and western democracies.

Equally important to understanding this political cartoon is the reference to Julius Caesar. The ancient politician and eventual dictator of Rome bears similarities to Mussolini: both were ruthless Italian dictators bent on expanding Italy’s control through military force and who were eventually killed by those who opposed them. Although in the present day we know of Mussolini as a dictator, at the time the cartoon and editorial were published that was up for debate, as he was still accumulating power. By likening him to Caesar, someone historically known as a tyrant, Knott made a strong political statement about the ethics of Mussolini’s conquests. This is further emphasized by the title of the cartoon, “Suggestion for Historical Mural”. Murals are a large, public, accessible artform. Since they reach such a wide audience, they have the capability to sway public perception. By suggesting that this unflattering depiction of Mussolini be a historical mural, Knott is making a statement about the way he wants history to remember Mussolini.

The cartoon shows Mussolini on top of a chariot, crowned with a laurel wreath, while the Ethiopian man is dragged below by the neck, wearing only a bucket. Mussolini’s stature is one of power: he is in possession of technology that allows him to be swifter and stronger, he stands above the other man, and he wears a crown that is symbolic of victory. Meanwhile, the barrel the Ethiopian man wears signifies destitution, and the rope around his neck helplessness. Mussolini and his army reign over Ethiopia with formidable strength, and this is reflected in the positions the people in the cartoon find themselves in.

The editorial accompanying this cartoon is titled “A Hot Time in the Old Town”. This title is drawn from a popular song from the time period of the same name, “A Hot Time in the Old Town” (also referred to sometimes as “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” after a memorable refrain in the chorus) composed by Theodore A. Metz in 1896. This march was popular in the military, associated with the Spanish American war and Theodore Roosevelt’s rough riders. Although the song was created before the 20th century, a popular rendition of it was recorded in 1927 by Bessie Smith, a notable singer of the era. This would have made the song a relevant reference in the 1930s, when the editorial was written. In regards to the article, the “hot time” would be the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, and the “old town” would be a reference to Rome, a city in Italy with an ancient history of conquest, and fits in with the parallels the cartoon draws between Ancient Rome and Italy during the 1930s. The fact that this song was popularized with the military emphasizes the militaristic nature of the conflict in Ethiopia, drawing attention to the fact that Italian armed forces were sent in to occupy Ethiopia.

By equating Mussolini with the tyrant Caesar and showing him subjugating the Ethiopian man, Knott draws attention to the situation between Italy and Ethiopia, as well as making it clear he believes Mussolini is a dictator wrongfully conquering Ethiopia.

Works Cited

“Italo-Ethiopian War.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia.” Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia | History Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Julius Caesar.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Benito Mussolini.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Kalinak, Kathryn Marie. How the West Was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford. Berkeley: U of California, 2007. Print.

Knott, John. “Suggestion for Historical Mural” Dallas Morning News 18 Apr. 1936. Print.