Hoare–Laval Pact was an initially secret December 1935 proposal
by British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare and French Prime Minister
Pierre Laval for ending the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. Italy had
wanted to seize the independent nation of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) as part
Italian Empire and also avenge the 1896 Battle of Adwa, a
humiliating defeat. The Pact offered to partition Abyssinia and
achieved Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's goal of making the
independent nation of Abyssinia into an Italian colony.
The proposal ignited a firestorm of hostile reaction in Britain and
France and never went into effect. Hoare lost his position.
5 See also
In 1935 the
Abyssinian Crisis and
Second Italo-Ethiopian War
Second Italo-Ethiopian War began. In
the United Kingdom many people and the official opposition supported
League of Nations
League of Nations sanctions against Fascist Italy, as did the
Dominions. The government hoped that strong sanctions against Italy
Nazi Germany from similar actions, and won the
November general election with a pro-League platform.
On 8 December 1935, British Foreign Minister Samuel Hoare, 1st
Viscount Templewood discussed with his French counterpart Pierre Laval
how to end the war. On 9 December British newspapers revealed leaked
details of an agreement by the two men to give much of Ethiopia to
Italy to end the war. The British Cabinet had not approved the
preliminary plan, but decided to support it to not embarrass Hoare.
The Pact was met with a wave of moral indignation in Britain. On 10
December the Opposition Labour Party claimed if the reports in the
press of the contents of the Pact were true, the government
contradicted the pro-League policy on which it had just won the 1935
The Conservatives dominated the government and cared little for
opinion on the left. They paid attention, however, when attacks came
from the right. In an editorial titled ‘A Corridor for Camels’,
The Times on 16 December denounced the Pact and said there never was
"the slightest doubt that British public opinion would recommend them
for approval by the League as a fair and reasonable basis of
negotiations". The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, condemned
the Pact in a letter to The Times, and many other bishops wrote
Stanley Baldwin to oppose it.
Duff Cooper, the Secretary of State for War, later wrote:
But before the Duce had had time to declare himself there arose a howl
of indignation from the people of Great Britain. During my experience
of politics I have never witnessed so devastating a wave of public
opinion. Even the easy-going constituents of the St. George's division
were profoundly moved. The post-bag was full and the letters I
received were not written by ignorant or emotional people but by
responsible citizens who had given sober thought to the matter.
The Conservative Chief Whip told Baldwin: "Our men won't stand for
Austen Chamberlain in a speech to the Conservative Foreign
Affairs Committee condemned the Pact and said: "Gentlemen do not
behave in such a way".
Harold Nicolson later wrote that he had had
sleepless nights worrying whether he could keep his seat.
When the Chamber of Deputies debated the Pact on 27 and 28 December,
the Popular Front condemned it, with
Léon Blum telling Laval: "You
have tried to give and to keep. You wanted to have your cake and eat
it. You cancelled your words by your deeds and your deeds by your
words. You have debased everything by fixing, intrigue and
slickness.... Not sensitive enough to the importance of great moral
issues, you have reduced everything to the level of your petty
Yvon Delbos declared: "Your plan is dead and buried. From its failure,
which is as total as possible, you could have – but you have not –
drawn a personal conclusion. Two lessons emerge. The first is that you
were in a dead end because you upset everyone without satisfying
Italy. The second is that we must return to the spirit of the Covenant
[of the League of Nations] by preserving agreement with the nations
gathered at Geneva".
Paul Reynaud attacked the government for aiding Hitler by ruining the
Anglo-French alliance. On the motion of censure, the French
government had a majority of 296 votes to 276, with 37 Radicals voting
for the government.
The British government withdrew the plan, and Hoare resigned. In early
1936 Italy began a new, larger advance using poison gas, and entered
Addis Ababa on 5 May 1936, ending the war.
A. J. P. Taylor
A. J. P. Taylor argued that it was the event that "killed the League
[of Nations]" and that the pact "was a perfectly sensible plan, in
line with the League's previous acts of conciliation from
Manchuria" which would have "ended the war; satisfied Italy; and left
Abyssinia with a more workable, national territory" but that the
"common sense of the plan was, in the circumstances of the time, its
The military historian
Correlli Barnett has argued that if Britain
alienated Italy, Italy "would be a potential enemy astride England's
main line of imperial communication at a time when she was already
under threat from two existing potential enemies at opposite ends of
the line [Germany and Japan]. If – worse – Italy were to fight in
a future war as an ally of Germany or Japan, or both, the British
would be forced to abandon the Mediterranean for the first time since
1798". Therefore, in Barnett's view, it was "highly dangerous nonsense
to provoke Italy" due to Britain's military and naval weakness and
that therefore the pact was a sensible option.
Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of 1928
^ a b c d Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper &
Brothers. pp. 273–280.
Keith Middlemas and John Barnes, Baldwin. A Biography (London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), pp. 887-889.
^ Ernst L. Presseisen, "Foreign Policy and British Public Opinion: The
Hoare-Laval Pact Of 1935," World Affairs Quarterly (1958) 29#3 pp.
^ The Times (16 December 1935), p. 15.
^ Middlemas and Barnes, p. 890.
^ Duff Cooper, Old Men Forget (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1953), pp.
^ Middlemas and Barnes, p. 890.
^ Harold Macmillan, Winds of Change (London: Macmillan, 1966), pp.
^ Macmillan, pp. 411-412.
^ Geoffrey Warner,
Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France (New York:
Macmillan, 1969), p. 126.
^ Warner, p. 126.
^ Warner, p. 126.
^ Warner, p. 127.
^ A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (Penguin,
1991), p. 128.
^ Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power (Pan, 2002), pp.
352-3 and p. 356.
Henderson B. Braddick, "The Hoare-Laval Plan: A Study in International
Politics," Review of Politics (1962) 24#3 pp. 342–364 in JSTOR
Holt, Andrew. "'No more Hoares to Paris’: British foreign
policymaking and the Abyssinian Crisis, 1935," Review of International
Studies (2011) 37#3 pp. 1383–1401
Robertson James C. "The Hoare-Laval Plan," Journal of Contemporary
History (1975) 10#3 pp