Research Post 2: When Collective Security Abandoned Abyssinia

I have found, as I continue my study into the response of the world to the Abyssinia Crisis, that the domestic organization of each of the Great Powers directly involved heavily affected their actions during the Crisis. The three major powers directly involved with the Crisis, Great Britain, France, and Italy, each had a very different domestic set of institutions and concerns to their national governments that influenced how they interacted with each other and the League as an institution. Italy, as an authoritarian, Fascist government, organized itself so that the average Italian citizen’s opinion mattered little, and rather the industrialists and industry of the nation influenced the national government more aggressively. The French Government, while a republic, had an executive branch and military apparatus that was extremely concerned about a resurgent Germany and was committed to maintaining the Stresa Front, whilst having a divided civil population that did not express its international desires easily. Britain, as the leading world power with a Liberal Democracy, and with one of the most complex apparatuses of state, had the interesting combination of needing to follow the direction that the people and domestic institutions expressed in voting, but while also having a government apparatus that did not easily change direction and was comparatively conservative. These different styles of governance and domestic interests resulted in fundamentally different approaches between the nations regarding dealing with each other and the League.

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African-American Participation in the Italo-Ethiopian War: Blog Post 3 (Memoirs)

Over the past week, I’ve discovered a not-so-surprising fact about library research: is it is very easy to get sidetracked. Remember how I said that my next blog post would be summing up African-American reactions to the war? Well, before I began  to compile my notes on African-American reactions into a cohesive blog post, I decided to check the secondary source accounts against memoirs of individuals who were in Ethiopia at the time of the war. My goal in doing so was to evaluate how the efforts of African-Americans actually affected life during the war, as seen through the eyes of individuals on the ground. Unfortunately, my selection of sources available was not great, and I ended up just consulting three memoirs for this stage of the research: the two-volume memoirs of Emperor Haile Selassie I, the recollections of John H. Spenser, an American lawyer who served as an advisor to the Ethiopian emperor until the 1970s, and the somewhat unreliable memoir of Wynant Hubbard, a rather racist American war correspondent who remained in Ethiopia for some of the crisis.

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African-American Participation in the Italo-Ethiopian War: Blog Post 2

Last week and this week, once I finally settled on a topic for my research, I began constructing a timeline of the diplomatic and military events of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. Most scholarship about the diplomatic and military aspects of the war date from the 1960s and 1970s, and are therefore considered “old” by historian standards, but I found them to nevertheless be good sources of information on the bare-bones facts of the conflict. To this end, I consulted the Italian Angelo del Boca’s (Ethiopian-sympathetic) account The Ethiopian War 1935-1941, the American Brice Harris’s United States and the Italo-Ethiopian Crisis and the Ethiopian Bahru Zewde’s A History of Modern Ethiopia: 1855-1991. I also consulted the secondary sources I had read previously, especially William S. Scott’s The Sons of Sheba’s Race. Furthermore, I corroborated my dates with two published memoirs: the two volumes of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress and American international lawyer John H. Spencer’s Ethiopia at Bay.  I tried to include specific dates as much as possible in the timeline: once I enter my second stage of research next week analyzing African-American newspaper accounts, I will search for articles surrounding the dates of specific events such as Haile Selassie’s Christmas 1937 radio address.

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African American Participation in the Italo-Ethiopian War- Blog Post #1

In the week or so that I’ve been doing my research on African-American participation in the Italo-Ethiopian War, I’ve discovered a very important fact about historical research: it’s messy. It doesn’t always go the way that you’ve planned.

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