1935 Sanctions Against Italy: Would Coal and Crude Oil Have Made a Difference

Mar 1997 | 014

Authors: Cristiano Andrea Ristuccia


This article assesses the hypothesis that in 1935 - 1936 the implementation of sanctions on the export of coal and oil products to Italy by the League of Nations would have forced Italy to abandon her imperialistic war against Ethiopia. In particular, the article focuses on the claim that Britain and France, the League’s leaders, could have halted the Italian invasion of Ethiopia by means of coal and oil sanctions, and without the help of the United States, or recourse to stronger means such as a military blockade. An analysis of the data on coal consumption in the industrial census of 1937 - 1938 shows that the Italian industry would have survived a League embargo on coal, provided that Germany continued her supply to Italy. The counterfactual proves that the effect of an oil embargo was entirely dependent on the attitude of the United States towards the Leagues action. Given that this attitude was by no means clear, a solitary attempt at such an embargo by the League would have failed.


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