Treaty of London (1915)

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Treaty of London
TypeBilateral treaty
Signed26 April 1915 (1915-04-26)
Location London, England, UK
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg France
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russia
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy

London Pact (Italian : Patto di Londra), or more correctly, the Treaty of London, 1915, was a secret pact between the Triple Entente and the Kingdom of Italy. The treaty was signed in London on 26 April 1915 by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the French Republic, the Russian Empire, and the Kingdom of Italy. [1] Its intent was to gain the alliance of Italy against its former allies, including the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. The main lure was promising large swaths of Austria-Hungary to the north of Italy and to the east across the Adriatic. Britain also promised funding. Italy promised to enter the war the next month. The alliance with Italy's old enemy Austria had been promoted by some politicians as a realpolitik move and had never been popular with the public. Also, the Allies could easily outbid Austria-Hungary and thereby won a military alliance with 36 million Italians. The secret provisions were published by the Bolsheviks when they came to power in Russia in late 1917.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Triple Entente early 20th century alliance between France, Russia and the United Kingdom

The Triple Entente refers to the understanding linking the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente on 31 August 1907. The understanding between the three powers, supplemented by agreements with Japan and Portugal, was a powerful counterweight to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

Kingdom of Italy kingdom on the Appenine Peninsula between 1861 and 1946

The Kingdom of Italy was a state which existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed King of Italy—until 1946—when civil discontent led an institutional referendum to abandon the monarchy and form the modern Italian Republic. The state was founded as a result of the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which can be considered its legal predecessor state.


After the war, British and French leaders refused to fulfil the pact, giving rise to a belief in a so-called "mutilated victory" within Italy, which played a role in determining Italian inter-war expansion. It fueled the rhetoric of Italian irredentism and Italian nationalism before World War II and was a key point in the rise of fascism.

The mutilated victory was a term coined by a famous Italian poet, Gabriele D'Annunzio, to describe dissatisfaction with the aftermath of World War I for Italy, because the Treaty of London (1915) signed by Italian authorities before entering the conflict was not fully carried out at the end of it. It promised land and resources in the coastal territory of Austria-Hungary, in modern Croatia and Slovenia, in historical regions of Dalmatia and Istria, much of which was later retracted and instead bestowed on newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia). The promised territory at the time had a sizeable ethnic Italian population which had not become part of Kingdom of Italy upon its unification in the late 19th century.

Italian irredentism Italian nationalist movement

Italian irredentism was a nationalist movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Italy with irredentist goals which promoted the unification of geographic areas in which indigenous ethnic Italians and Italian-speaking persons formed a majority, or substantial minority, of the population.

Italian nationalism

Italian nationalism asserts that the Italians are a nation with a single identity and seeks to promote the cultural unity of Italy as a country, in a definition of Italianness claiming descent from the Latins who originally dwelt in Latium and came to dominate the Italian peninsula and much of Europe. Italian nationalism has also historically adhered to imperialist theories. The romantic version of such views is known as Italian patriotism, while their integral version is known as Italian fascism.


Italian minister of foreign affairs made it plain to Austrian ambassador that not only Italy would not fight with Germany and Austria, but compensation were expected for Austria extending its territory in Serbia. For six months Italy remained neutral, stating that the Triple Alliance was defensive and no alliance member should have declared any act of war without previous consultation amongst treaty signatories; Article 7 of the Triple Alliance foresaw compensation to maintain the balance of power in the Balkans. In fact, Austria-Hungary consulted only Germany in the days preceding Serbian ultimatum and Italy discovered Austrian war declaration from newspapers and not from ambassadors. Italy took the initiative in entering the war in spring 1915, despite strong popular and elite sentiment in favour of neutrality. Italy was a large, poor country whose political system was chaotic, its finances were heavily strained, and its army was very poorly prepared. [2] The Triple Alliance meant little either to Italians or Austrians – Vienna had declared war on Serbia without consulting Rome. Two men, Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino made all the decisions, as was typical in Italian foreign policy. They operated in secret, enlisting the king later on, but keeping military and political leaders entirely in the dark. They negotiated with both sides for the best deal, and got one from the Entente, which was quite willing to promise large slices of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the Tyrol and Trieste. Russia vetoed giving Italy Dalmatia and Albania. Britain was willing to pay to get 36 million Italians as new allies who threatened the southern flank of Austria. [3]

Triple Alliance (1882) 1882 alliance between Germany, Austria–Hungary, Italy, and Romania

The Triple Alliance was an agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. It was formed on 20 May 1882 and renewed periodically until it expired in 1915 during World War I. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been closely allied since 1879. Italy was looking for support against France shortly after it lost North African ambitions to the French. Each member promised mutual support in the event of an attack by any other great power. The treaty provided that Germany and Austria-Hungary were to assist Italy if it was attacked by France without provocation. In turn, Italy would assist Germany if attacked by France. In the event of a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Italy promised to remain neutral. The existence and membership of the treaty were well known, but its exact provisions were kept secret until 1919.

Antonio Salandra Prime Minister of Italy

Antonio Salandra was a conservative Italian politician who served as the 33rd Prime Minister of Italy between 1914 and 1916. He ensured the entry of Italy in World War I on the side of the Triple Entente to fulfil Italy’s irredentist claims.

Sidney Sonnino Italian politician

Sidney Costantino, Baron Sonnino was an Italian statesman, 19th Prime Minister of Italy and twice served briefly as one, in 1906 and again from 1909 to 1910. He also was the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs during the First World War, representing Italy at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

Only after the Treaty of London was secretly signed in April 1915, the leader of Italian neutralist Giolitti, collected enough parliamentary support to force the Prime Minister Salandra to resign; during the consultation with the king for establishing a new government, Giolitti was informed that Italy was already committed to war and faced the choice of acquiescence or risk a crisis between parliament and king and another between Italy and the other signatories of the London Pact. Giolitti renounced and Salandra returned to office. Most politicians, and indeed most Italians opposed the war, including most Catholics. Reports from around Italy showed the people feared war, and cared little about territorial gains. Rural folk saw war as a disaster, like drought, famine or plague. Businessmen were generally opposed, fearing heavy-handed government controls and taxes, and loss of foreign markets. Reversing the decision seemed impossible, for the Triple Alliance did not want Italy back, and the king's throne was at risk. Pro-war supporters mobbed the streets with tens of thousands of shouting by nationalists, Futurists, anti-clericals, and angry young men. Benito Mussolini, an important Socialist Party editor, took a leadership role, but he was expelled from the Party and only a minority followed him. Apart from Russia, this was the only far left party in Europe that opposed the war. The fervour for war represented a bitterly hostile reaction against politics as usual, and the failures, frustrations, and stupidities of the ruling class. [4] [5]

Benito Mussolini Duce and President of the Council of Ministers of Italy. Leader of the National Fascist Party and subsequent Republican Fascist Party

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy from his golpe in 1922 to 1943, and Duce of Fascism from 1919 to his execution in 1945 during the Italian civil war. As dictator of Italy and founder of fascism, Mussolini inspired several totalitarian rulers such as Adolf Hitler.


According to the pact, Italy was to leave the Triple Alliance and join the Triple Entente; Italy was to declare war against Germany and Austria-Hungary within a month (this happened against Austria-Hungary within a month, but Italy did not declare war on Germany until a year later on August 27, 1916 [6] ). Assuming victory against Germany and its allies, the Triple Entente promised Italy the following territorial gains (see Italia irredenta ) at the end of the war:

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution; as a result Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.

Tyrol, partitioned in 1918, parts remaining Austrian referred to as Nordtirol and Osttirol, but part of one Federal State of Tirol Tirol-Suedtirol-Trentino.png
Tyrol, partitioned in 1918, parts remaining Austrian referred to as Nordtirol and Osttirol, but part of one Federal State of Tirol
Territories promised to Italy by the Entente on the Eastern Adriatic, in the Austrian Littoral and Dalmatia TratadoDeLondresTerritoriosParaItalia.svg
Territories promised to Italy by the Entente on the Eastern Adriatic, in the Austrian Littoral and Dalmatia
Territories promised to Serbia and Montenegro by the Triple Entente Trattato di Londra.svg
Territories promised to Serbia and Montenegro by the Triple Entente
  1. Tyrol, up to the Alpine water divide at the Brenner Pass, which includes the modern-day Italian provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige (the latter called “Cisalpine Tyrol”). [7]
  2. The entire Austrian Littoral, including Istria, the port of Trieste and the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, but without the island of Krk (Veglia) and the Hungarian port of Rijeka.
  3. Northern Dalmatia, including Zadar, Šibenik, and most of the Dalmatian islands, except Rab and Brač.
  4. The districts of Vipava, Idrija and Ilirska Bistrica in the Austrian Duchy of Carniola.
  5. The townships of Pontebba (Pontafel) and Malborghetto Valbruna (Malborgeth-Wolfsbach) in the Austrian Duchy of Carinthia.
  6. The Dodecanese Islands (held by Italy since 1912)
  7. The port of Vlorë in Albania
  8. A protectorate over Albania ("Italy should be entrusted with the task of representing the State of Albania in its relations with Foreign Powers").
  9. Small compensations in Africa in case German colonies in Asia and Africa were occupied by Allies [8] , in particular border adjustments between already existing Italian colonies and British and French ones.
  10. In the event of the partition of Turkey, Italy "ought to obtain a just share of the Mediterranean region adjacent to the province of Adalia" [8]
Vilayet of Adalia (Antalya), allotted to Italy Vilayet of Adalia (Antalya) in 1890.png
Vilayet of Adalia (Antalya), allotted to Italy

The Kingdom of Serbia, which was not present nor a signatory, was assigned:

Kingdom of Serbia 1882-1918 kingdom in Southeastern Europe

The Kingdom of Serbia was created when Milan I, ruler of the Principality of Serbia, was proclaimed king in 1882.

  1. The Dalmatian coast between the Krka and Stagno (Ston), including the Sabbioncello peninsula (Pelješac), the port of Split, and the island of Brazza (Brač).

The Kingdom of Montenegro, which was not present nor a signatory, was assigned:

  1. The Dalmatian coast between Budua (Budva) and Stagno (Ston), including Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and Bocche di Cattaro (Boka Kotorska), but without the Sabbioncello (Pelješac) peninsula;
  2. The coast south to the Albanian port of Shengjin (San Giovanni di Medua).

Also, but less precisely, Serbia was assigned[ citation needed ]:

  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  2. Syrmia
  3. Bačka
  4. Slavonia (against Italian objections)
  5. Some unspecified areas of Albania (to be divided among Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece).

Italy insisted, and the Allies agreed, that the question of the Adriatic coast between Zara and Istria should be settled after the war. Italy also insisted that Serbia should not be informed about the agreements. However, the Allies over-ruled this by sending an official note to Serbia on 4 August 1915, confirming the post-war territorial claims of Serbia and Montenegro.

The pact was to be kept secret, but after the October Revolution in Russia, it was published in November 1917 by the Russian journal Izvestia .

Paris Peace Conference

After the war, Italy would only negotiate with Serbia and Montenegro. The Italian delegation staged a walk-out for a number of months when faced with the denial of their territorial demands.

The pact was nullified by the Treaty of Versailles. Before 1918, the contents of the Pact of London had been published to the world by the Bolshevik Russian State. The Fourteen Points, as proposed by US President Woodrow Wilson, contained a number of clauses that argued for ethnic or national self-determination and against respecting the provisions of the Treaty of London:

In Wilson's view, the Pact of London had been arrived at by secret contract, hence was not valid. Nevertheless, Wilson had no particular problem with the implementation of other secret wartime agreements such as the Sykes–Picot Agreement. Overall Wilson sought to achieve borders being determined by the populations present in the area rather than by outside parties; the pact of London adjudicated to Italy areas that did not have a majority-Italian population. Wilson believed that Slavic claims to some of the disputed regions were more sound than those of Italy. [9]

Italy ultimately was denied other gains promised in the Treaty: a share of German colonies and control of Albania. [8] Italy tried to establish a physical claim in Anatolia (Turkey), but was quickly forced to evacuate. The partition of the Tyrol on the water divide line was confirmed by the Treaty of St. Germain.

Repercussions of the disavowal of the Treaty

Residents of Fiume cheer the arrival of Gabriele d'Annunzio and his blackshirt-wearing nationalist raiders, as D'Annunzio and Fascist Alceste De Ambris developed the quasi-fascist Italian Regency of Carnaro (a city-state in Fiume) from 1919 to 1920 and whose actions by D'Annunzio in Fiume inspired the Italian Fascist movement Fiume cheering D'Annunzio.jpg
Residents of Fiume cheer the arrival of Gabriele d'Annunzio and his blackshirt-wearing nationalist raiders, as D'Annunzio and Fascist Alceste De Ambris developed the quasi-fascist Italian Regency of Carnaro (a city-state in Fiume) from 1919 to 1920 and whose actions by D'Annunzio in Fiume inspired the Italian Fascist movement

After the war, British and French leaders refused to fulfil all the promises in the pact. The irredentist nationalist element of Italy considered this an inexcusable betrayal by these two European allies. The colonial gains by Britain and France from the war further angered the Italians. They felt excluded, although the gains were largely in the form of mandates from the League of Nations, looking toward preparation for independence, rather than simple colonial expansion.

The breakdown of the London Pact helped give rise to a belief in a so-called "mutilated victory" within Italy, which played a role in determining Italian inter-war expansion. In 1920 Italian nationalists created the Free State of Fiume, although it had not been assigned to Italy in the Treaty of London. This underscored the unstable results of the Treaty of Versailles relative to Italian claims.

During the negotiations, the USA suggested that the pact be revised on the grounds of a fundamental change in circumstances. Though this reasoning was rejected by the other powers, it is noteworthy as an early example of American invocation of this legal principle. [10]

See also

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  1. Baker, Ray Stannard. Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, Volume I, Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1923, pp. 52–55
  2. William A. Renzi, In the Shadow of the Sword: Italy's Neutrality and Entrance Into the Great War, 1914–1915 (1987).
  3. C.J. Lowe, "Britain and Italian Intervention 1914-1915." Historical Journal (1969) 12#3, pp. 533-48.
  4. Martin Clark, Modern Italy: 1871-1995 (1996), pp. 180-5.
  5. Dennis Mack Smith, Italy: A Modern History (1969), pp. 292–305.
  6. "The Italian Declaration of Neutrality - World War I Document Archive". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  7. Moos, Carlo (2017), "Südtirol im St. Germain-Kontext", in Georg Grote and Hannes Obermair (ed.), A Land on the Threshold. South Tyrolean Transformations, 1915–2015, Oxford-Berne-New York: Peter Lang, pp. 27–39, ISBN   978-3-0343-2240-9
  8. 1 2 3 "First World - Primary Documents - Treaty of London, 26 April 1915". Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  9. American Society of International Law. Volume 15, Oxford University Press, 1921, p. 253.
  10. Mahmood M. Poonja, Termination of Treaties Owing to Fundamental Change of Circumstances (Clausula Rebus Sic Stantibus): A Doctoral Dissertation [Juris Doctor dissertation, Charles University, Prague, 1977] (Rawalpindi: Abbas Arts, 1982), p. 19.