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Did Italy made a mistake by becoming a member of the Entente in 1915 throughout World Warfare One?

So, a bit background: in 1882, the newly shaped Kingdom of Italy joined the alliance between the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, thus making the Triple Alliance. Nevertheless, this alliance was a defensive one. It stipulated that Germany and Austria-Hungary have been to help Italy if it was attacked by France with out provocation. In return, Italy will assist Germany, if attacked by France. In case of battle between Austria-Hungary and The Russian Empire, Italy promised to stay impartial.

Though, apparently sufficient, in 1902 Italy signed a secret treaty with France, during which each nation promised to not go to battle towards one another.

In 1914, when World Warfare One started, Italy declared their neutrality. There have been two predominant causes: the primary cause was that The Triple Alliance was a defensive pact and Italy noticed Austria-Hungary because the aggressor that began World Warfare One by declaring battle on Serbia and launching an offensive battle, thus Italy was not obligated to enter the battle and the second was the discontent of Italy in 1908 when Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia. This discontent resulted from the truth that Italy and Austria-Hungary promised to don’t change the established order within the Balkans with out consulting one another (to which, Austria-Hungary did precisely the alternative in 1908).

In between 1914 and 1915, each the Central Powers and The Entente tried to pursue Italy: the Central Powers tried to maintain Italy impartial and the Entente tried to make Italy joined the battle on their aspect. In the long run, the Entente gained, because of Italy signing the Treaty of London and becoming a member of the battle on Might 23, 1915.

Sadly for the Italians, their marketing campaign did not go as deliberate. Combating towards Austria-Hungary, they suffered an ideal loss (the truth is, they’re biggest misplaced within the battle) on the battle of Caporetto. Nevertheless, Italy’s luck was the truth that Austria-Hungary was their predominant opponent (an empire that, little to be stated, didn’t carried out as anticipated) and after the battle of Vittorio Veneto within the late 1918 the Austro-Hungarian military mainly collapsed, ending Austria-Hungary participation within the battle. 

In the long run, Italy was on the winners aspect, however with a excessive value: in response to Wikipedia, the Italians suffered as many as 1,052,400 to 1,243,400 deaths (3% to three.5% of complete inhabitants). And, so as to add, Italian’s economic system was in complete spoil. Sadly for the Italians, this isn’t the top: on the Peace Convention, a few of the territories promised to Italy after the battle and stipulated within the Treaty of London got to the brand new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Clearly, this angered and upsetted the Italian inhabitants and this deception can be often known as the “Vittoria Mutilata” (“The Mutilated Victory”). The “Vittoria Mutilata” will mark the Postwar Italy and the rise of fascism marked by the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini (which is able to affect the rise of Hitler in Germany and can mark the primary steps to World Warfare Two).

Now, my query is: did Italy make a mistake by becoming a member of the Entente?

Effectively, given the circumstances within the yr 1915, no. The Entente promised Italy rather more territories than the Central Powers, who weren’t so eager on Italy becoming a member of the battle. Given the truth that, on the time, this was the largest battle of all occasions, the potential of territories that could possibly be “acquired” was immense and Italy actually could not say no if what they wished was to be probably the most highly effective nations, if not of the world, then possibly in Europe. Including to the truth that possibly if they’ve refused to take part within the battle now (in any of the perimeters they wished), later the battle scenario might not have been so favorable, Italy appeared to do the best factor. I imply, they could not have recognized that their allies is not going to give the territories they promised.

And now, there are two choices: Italy stays impartial or Italy joins the Central Powers. In my view:

1. **Italy** **stays impartial -** For me, this isn’t actually a chance. Why? “Given the truth that, on the time, this was the largest battle of all occasions, the potential of territories that could possibly be “acquired” was immense and Italy actually could not say no if what they wished was to be probably the most highly effective nations, if not of the world, then possibly in Europe.”
2. **Italy** **joins** **the Central Powers -** Once more, fairly inconceivable: let’s not neglect the truth that Italy was nonetheless upset after the annexation of Bosnia, the truth that the territories that have been promised to Italy have been “extraordinarily wished” by them, due to the variety of Italians contained in the borders of Austria-Hungary (in 1910, there have been roughly 800,000 Italians in Austria-Hungary). In fact, let’s not neglect the key treaty with France. So, I believe, on the time for Italy it was much more straightforward and much more conveniently to hitch the Entente.

For me, the story of Italy within the First World Warfare is a really dramatic one. Motivated to enter a horrible battle (the truth is, probably the most horrible battle at that second with regards to the victims and the impression it had on the world on the time and sooner or later) by the prospect of gaining extra territories and the standing of “probably the most highly effective international locations on the planet”, Italy finally ends up as probably the most unfortunate of the winners. Cheated on the Peace Convention, with a basic dissatisfaction among the many inhabitants, a ruined economic system, the weak authorities that attempted to take care of the facility was shortly modified with an authoritarian one led by the primary European dictator of the XX century: Benito Mussolini. He’ll information Italy to an much more horrible and devastating battle.
Perhaps issues would have appeared completely different (in a greater approach) if Italy joined the Central Powers. It is tough to say if the Central Powers would have gained the battle with Italy by their aspect. All we are able to do is to think about eventualities which might be simply prospects. Definitely, France would have had an much more tough activity to defend their nation (because it occurred within the Second World Warfare). Perhaps, if France was conquered, Italy would have gained extra territories and the Second World Warfare would have by no means occurred. However this are simply speculations and all now we have is historical past and what actually occurred.

Comments ( 34 )

  1. Neutral seems more likely than the central powers – it doesn’t take a military genius to realize you’re better off fighting the Austrians than the French, all else being equal.

    (Edit: and political pressure was more on taking places like Trent/Trieste, not necessarily places like Savoy back from the French. I think that has more to do with Austria being weaker/perceived as easier to get those territories, but still)

    Neutral would probably have been the better option in the long long term – does anyone for instance think the Netherlands made the wrong move not joining? But I agree that it would be very hard in the moment to argue for neutrality

  2. Honestly the Italians were just something the allies wanted to use to stall the front, as they themselves had been in a serious struggle against the Germans, and stalling the Austrians was about the one thing they could do.

  3. The main problem is that not only the Entente easily is capable of outbidding the CP, in 1914-15 they have all the motivation to do It and a better reputation due to their support in 1912. They even would begrudgingly maintain their promises – but nobody could predict Wilson’s Fourteen Points back then.

  4. Staying neutral would have benefited Italy the most, selling goods to both sides and avoiding a war it just wasn’t ready for.

    Joining the Central Powers would just be entirely suicidal. Italy was dependent on French and British colonial possessions just to import enough food for Italy, let alone importing industrial resources to modernize their military.

    A Franco-British blockade and bombardment of Italian port cities would have meant Italy starts 1915 in famine.

  5. WWI was a pointless war, thus in and of itself a mistake.

  6. I think there are a number of issues with a lot of the statements.

    The first one is the idea that Italy could have genuinely considered entering the war in the Central Powers’ side. Reason being that the relationship between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire was anything but cordial. Remember, the Third War of Independence had ended barely 50 years before and ended with the Austro-Hungarian empire losing the last of it’s major holdings in Italy.
    Although the spirit of the Risorgimento was no longer the guiding principle of Italian foreign policy, there were still elements of Italian society that believed that Italy had a natural right to Trieste, Dalmatia and Trentino. None of which the Austro-Hungarian empire was ready to cede.

    Another element to consider is the Mediterranean. A lot if the theories are limited to what may have happened during a land-based war but ignores what would have happened at sea. The Austro-Hungarian empire didn’t have a navy to speak of but both France and the UK had colonial holdings in North Africa and would have had the resources to wage a naval war Italy could have not won.
    Sure, naval warfare was nowhere near what it once was but it could still be effective. The British naval blockade of the North Sea contributed to starving Germany and was a contributing factor to its eventual surrender.

  7. They would have been worse off if they joined the Central Powers. The French would have been a much tougher opponent than Austria Hungary and they would have been very vulnerable to the British Royal Navy. With that said, joining the Allies was also a bad idea. The Italians had half a million casualties in WW1 for very little gain after the war. Their best option would have been to sit the war out.

  8. Hard to say. It was my understanding that Italy wanted Trieste and some other land from Austria-Hungary, so I think from that perspective they may not have wanted to be neutral. If the Entante won, and Italy stayed neutral, there would be little incentive for the Entante to give that land. Now I also don’t think Italy (or anyone) had the foresight to see how the war would have ended and Italy never got everything it wanted. So they got a little bit at a huge cost. It’s a gain in land, but loss in life. Was the loss of that life worth it? Probably not. Was the military leadership also very poor? Yes. Could other smaller events impact this? Absolutely. This answer may depend on what you’re measuring and a much more complicated answer than something figured out on a reddit post.

  9. I think Italy did the only possible thing in a situation that seemed very favourable.

    **NEUTRAL ARGUMENT:** The neutrality was possible actually, see the Netherlands, and maybe it would have resulted in a better economical situation for Italy (being able to treat with both sides) and more political stability. Which in hindsight might have avoided the red years and Mussolini’s ascension. There was a huge neutrality front in Italy, but the pro-war one prevailed *even though not really in a trasparent way*. The Treaty of London was in fact kept secret from the Parliament and known only to members of the Salandra cabinet. There was a fear that staying neutral would have doomed Italy’s possibility of annexing the missing territories in case of a German/Austrian victory (and at the first it looked like Germany could get a decisive win on France’s border with Von Moltke at the First Battle of the Marne).

    **PRO-WAR**: The nationalism, the Risorgimento’s sentiment was not completely gone. The foreign policy was still the same since the unity, so unifying all the Italian territories, and many were still lacking (Trento, Trieste, Istria, Dalmatia, Fiume). And Austria-Hungary wasn’t surely giving them away, the only way to get them was joining the Entente or staying militarily neutral and pressing the claims during peace treaties, if France won.

    **AGAINST WAR**: Joining the Central Empires wasn’t possible. Italy’s navy was nothing against France and UK’s, and Italy needed their resources, in fact imported lots of goods from their colonies. And since Austria-Hungary didn’t really have a navy, Italy would have put herself in a naval war against UK and France alone. That would have been way worse than Caporetto.

    The war resulted in more than a million Italian deaths. The result were just a bunch of territories, not even all the promised ones. Speaking as an Italian, it was surely not worth it. Obviously I’m writing this with the results in hindsight, so nothing that really could help them decide.

    The Great War has left more scars than goods to Italy, there are just a few “good things” that have survived this century coming from the war. One was the patriotism born as unity against the common enemy (Austria). I’m not obviously saying animosity is good and hating Austria is ok, just that it may have helped unity between people a bit (it was still a newborn country in many ways).

    At least it was not all a big loss militarily speaking, Vittorio Veneto is well remembered today (as is Caporetto) and the “Canzone del Piave” was used as provisional national Anthem during WWII and after the Monarchy/Republic referendum held on the 2nd June 1946. But entering a war totally unprepared on a military/naval front is very stupid.

    But to remark it, the “Vittoria Mutilata” sentiment was very real. All those efforts, those hard decisions, those fallen brothers and the victory is not even triumphant. No wonder some far-right sentiments became very popular after the war..

  10. Their navy barely held up to Austria’s. If they would’ve had to fight the French and British? No chance. And they weren’t going to make ground against the French army either.

  11. Is it because of the territory? I was fascinated with their armor.

  12. What is the point of having a secret peace treaty? Isn’t the benefit of a peace treaty that other nation states know about it and thus influence their decision to invade?

  13. An outcome that really isn’t explored all that much would be Austria-Hungary bribing Italy with land concessions just to stay neutral. Or selling them Trieste for military supplies, and not having to burn all that blood and treasure on the pointless Italian front could have given Austria-Hungary a lifeline for a few more months so they could pick up slack for Germany on the Russian front, and Germany might have gotten to Paris.

    Really, with the power of hindsight I bet the central powers would have rather just conceded the ground to Italy if they could have shut down one whole front.

  14. Strategically, it made sense to join the Entente. But considering Italy’s military was headed up by an incompetent buffoon who murdered hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, joining any war was irresponsible.

  15. wouldn’t Lenin have been the first European dictator of the 20th century, not Mussolini?

  16. All Italy joining the central Powers would have done is give the Franco-British fleet something to actually attack. Italy is extremely vulnerable to an enemy who can gain naval superiority, as she found out in WWII, and a joint Italian-Austrian naval axis would be no match for the Franco-British one. With Germany mostly hiding its surface fleet from Britain, Franco-British assets could have easily been transferred to the mediterranean, perhaps overcoming an Austro-Italian flotilla trying to check access through the Strait of Gibraltar, and have no shortage of targets to easily bombard and docked fleets to destroy piecemeal.

    One of the only things stopping that from happening in WWII is that the Regio Aeronautica was actually pretty good early in the war. Easily Italy’s best fighting branch with good planes and great pilots in reasonable numbers that could stand up to the British on their own at first. That combined with the neutralization of the French fleet, delayed the Franco-British ability to pummel Italia for a few years.

    Italy would have had no similar protection, however, in 1915, and nearly the whole coastline was vulnerable to coastal raiding,bombardment, and eventually invasion, as the US-British naval coalition eventually proved. Minus the US but plus France, which at the time was a major naval player in its own right, Britain would have easily achieved the same success even with the small, technologically backward Austro-Hungarian fleet muddying the waters a bit.

    So with that being siad it was impossible to imagine aligning with the Central Powers ending well for Italy. They simply had no ability to properly aid them in the one theater that mattered — the Mediterranean naval theater. Thus Italy had a choice between staying out of the war or picking the side that was astronomically more likely to rule the Mediterranean during and after the war, which was the Entente.

    *Sacroegoismo* was simply a reasonable argument that if they sided with the Entente they might get some desired territory out of it, and that self interest aligned them with the security of the seas offered by the Entente, which was essential to Italian survival. Since they only had 2 options they chose the one that gave them the best chance to gain. Simple enough.

  17. Neutrality is a totally legit option for italy. They should have just not participated.

    Especially when nobody could say for certain what the war was about.

  18. Thank goodness my grand family left Sicily in the late 1800s, early 1900s. I didnt know all this. Fascinating. I thought they left cuz uncle married niece and my grandma’s grandma became her mil. No maiden name

  19. I think what a lot of people are forgetting or ignoring is the Italian people’s strong sentiment to fight Austria its long term enemy at the time.

    And the political factions in the country.

    Even if they stayed neutral I don’t think it would have lasted as government would have collapsed or had a coup (what I bet the allied powers would have backed)

    Neutrality was just not a option.

  20. The things is they were already offered one of their coveted Austrian province by staying neutral . To bad this is not enough for the King and the hardline nationalist,Just look at Spain and the US who profited so immensely for the war. By staying neutral Italy could get a free province and fill up their treasury with Gold and could have build up their industry with foreign money.

  21. They had like half a million war deaths. *Of course* it was a mistake to join the war.

  22. They made a mistake by joining the war in the first place.
    They were horribly unprepared for war. They had no modern artillery, the army was poorly trained and equipped, and the country’s economy was weak at best.
    They took enormous casualties and were humiliated at Caporetto.

  23. A *little* aside, but my great grandpa is a war orphan from WW1. The education in American schools regarding WW1 left…a lot to be desired. We hardly even glossed over Italy’s participation in the war. Now I guess I know why my great grandpa was a war orphan, so thanks for that OP!

    NY school for those wondering.

    I’ve been mulling about getting my Italian citizenship, since I’m eligible, but the whole “orphan” thing makes this needlessly complicated.

  24. Italy has always been a big “ what if?” in history. By all accounts the Entente did screw Italy over. I’m sure had Wilson not intervened perhaps Italy would’ve gotten more but Italy also underperformed especially against Austria which by all accounts was woefully lacking in military capability which probably didn’t help lend Italy credit considering that Serbia, a nation far smaller by all metrics than Italy, was holding its own against AH and Turkey before finally falling apart against the Bulgarians. Italy probably would’ve been better off staying neutral since they can still trade with both sides and grow.

  25. Can anyone recommend some good sources for reading about Italy during WWI, alpine warfare, that sort of thing?

  26. I just watched a WW2 documentary on Italy.
    Italy is full of mistakes

  27. World war one was a mistake.

    How’s that?

    It was just a sad comedy of errors that cost the lives of hundreds of millions.
    BILLIONS, really. Probably hundreds of billions.

    Because “my dad is bigger than yours!”

    “Oh yeah!? My dad can kick your dad any day!”

    And not one “leader” used an ounce of common sense.

  28. It seems they did the mistake twice with nazis…

  29. No. I can’t see any other scenario where Italy could gain Italian areas under Austrian control, namely Trentino, Friuli and Trieste.
    Italy had nothing to gain by going against France (the nation who made reunification possible).

  30. I’ll reference Alessandro Barbero, his episode on the italian retreat at the end of WWI.

    Basically he said that the Italian govt didn’t want to enter the war because they knew how fucked up the army was. They saw how poorly it performed in Ethiopia and didn’t fancy their chance against European Nations.

    However the people didn’t know that, it was all covered up. And there was sens of connection between the italian people and France. That was particularly the case with educated italians, Barbero noted, which are influential in journals and the “good” society. The liberal democracies, France and UK, embodied well their values and ideals for which they wished Italy to fight. They wouldn’t let liberal values fall. So the pressure mounted little by little, journals after journals, discussion in posh café after discussion until the govt had to ceide to the pressure.

    It didn’t make a mistake joining as much as it pretended to be stronger than what it was to its people.

  31. Early on in the war, Italy sent its soldiers equipped with uniforms and weapons designed for the Libyan desert to fight in the alps in winter. Many soldiers froze to death. A substantial proportion of the weapons like guns wouldn’t even work in the freezing weather. Generals sent tens of thousands of soldiers to die in hopeless attacks. After the war, Italy had profound social unrest and a deeply scarred country.

    Switzerland, on the other hand, remained neutral, equipped its soldiers for winter climates (even if it didn’t adequately pay them;) after the war was quite prosperous.

    The United States remained neutral and made huge profits from the war until the war reached a stalemate, then it joined the war, ended it and dictated terms heavily in its favor to both sides, picking up territories.

    Italy, on the other hand, didn’t even get the territories it was promised.

    I think it’s very far fetched to describe at least choice as a wise decision

  32. Maybe if they would have joined Entente only in 1918,and building meanwhile a strong army , suffering much less from the war would have left a powerful Italy post war, getting much more also from the peace, and fascism would have been avoided.Or maybe not

  33. Italy should of stayed neutral.

    Why? So that way it can spend the time to invest in its military while watching and learning what each side is doing.

    Once the war ends in the same way and Austria Hungary collapses while everyone is war-fatigue. Italy would be ready to invade the new lands that broke off of Austria-Hungary and take whatever they wanted. No one would’ve been in the position to stop them other than maybe the US which wasn’t ready to enter a new war.

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