Italy, British resolve and the 1935-1936 Italo-Ethiopian War

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Cahiers de la Méditerranée

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This article offers an explanation of varying perceptions of resolve - the willingness to incur costs in order to reach a contested good. The article argues that domestic actors who publicly and personally invest themselves in policy action are likely to view signals of high adversary resolve more critically than those who do not. Variance in signals is also important. Skeptical “vested” actors view even public signals as indicators of low resolve if the signals contain ambiguity. If “vested” actors dominate the challenger’s government, only clear and costly signals are likely to lead the challenger to perceive high defender resolve. I use this approach to explain Italian perceptions of British resolve on the eve of the 1935-36 Italo-Ethiopian War. While many Italian officials came to see British resolve as high, Benito Mussolini was motivated to see the ambiguity in British signals.


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Founded by Andre Nouschi in 1970, Cahiers de la Méditerranée is published by the Modern and Contemporary Mediterranean Center (CMMC), at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis with the assistance of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Regional Council.