By Reynolds M. Salerno
Concentrating on the period from the Mediterranean crisis of 1935 to Italy's declaration of war in June 1940, Salerno demonstrates that the international politics of pre -- World War II Europe can only be understood as the multilateral interaction of British, French, German, and Italian foreign and defense policies. Control of the Mediterranean, he asserts, was a central concern for the European powers in 1935 -- 40 and a fundamental reason why the conflict unfolded as it did. As a result, France and Italy influenced and often determined the nature and direction of Allied and Axis policy.
Salerno contends that the Allies' reluctance to take decisive action against Fascist Italy in 1939 -- 40 contributed to the fall of France in 1940, Britain's desperate situation in 1940 -- 41, and the post-war collapse of Britain as a world power. At a time when the Allied powers dreaded the ability of the German military to march across the European continent, they also feared that the Italian armed forces would strive to fulfill Mussolini's grand imperial ambitions in the Mediterranean.