CHAPTER XXVII
SIR GALAHAD GOES TO ROME

Shortly after becoming Foreign Minister, Sir Samuel Hoare received (June 18) the report of the Inter-Departmental Committee (called the Maffey Committee, after its chairman), which had been set up in March to investigate the Ethiopian affair. According to this report, Italy "certainly would do everything in her power in the next few years to gain control in Ethiopia, even if at the present moment she intended to limit her action to the conquest of the low- lands bordering Italian Somaliland". "No vital interests existed in Ethiopia or its neighbourhood sufficient to oblige His Majesty's Government to resist a conquest of Ethiopia by Italy." "It was a matter of indifference whether Ethiopia remained independent or was absorbed by Italy." In point of fact, "Italian control over Ethiopia would from some viewpoints be advantageous for Britain". "From the viewpoint of imperial defence an independent Ethiopia was preferable to an Italian Ethiopia, but the threats to British interests seemed very remote and would only become real in the event of war between Britain and Italy which was an eventuality that at the present seemed very improbable." Efficient Italian control over Abyssinia would bring about more orderly conditions along the borders of British Somaliland. This British advantage "would be certainly such as to counterbalance that loss of [British] prestige which the Italians would win as a result of their Abyssinian conquests". To be sure, the British Government had to try to improve on its position in East Africa should Abyssinia disappear as an independent State. It "should try to obtain territorial control over the lake and over a corridor joining it with the Sudan", and "the opportunity should be seized, if possible, to rectify the boundaries of British Somaliland, Kenya, and the Sudan, so as to incorporate those adjoining localities which have bonds of economic and ethnical affinity".1

To be sure, neither Baldwin, nor Hoare, nor Eden had to wait until they were officially handed the Maffey report in order to be

____________________
1
The report entirely ignored Britain's responsibilities under the Covenant of the League of Nations. In the House of Commons (24.ii.36), Eden stated that "it was in no sense the task of the Committee to deal with His Majesty's Government's obligations under the Covenant". But was His Majesty's Government entitled to make short work of those obligations? Toynbee, Survey of International Affairs, 1935, II, pp. 42-4, gives a strangely inadequate account of the Maffey report, and states that report "refutes the Italian publicists' contention that British championship of the Covenant masked a selfish concern for local British. interests". The fact is that the Maffey report was precisely concerned with local British interests.

-226-

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