A conference will be convened on 9-10 May at the University of Angers, France, to consider the history of war correspondents reporting during the period between the two world wars. The title of the conference is “Correspondants de guerre: aire latine 1918-1939” (“The War Correspondent in the Latin Countries: 1918-1939”). Among the topics to be considered will be the Spanish Civil War and the Italian War in Abyssinia. One of the papers to be presented on 9 May will relate to Evelyn Waugh’s reports from Abyssinia for the Daily Mail. Here is an English-language summary of that paper (it will apparently be presented in English at the conference):
Bastian Matteo Scianna
University of Potsdam
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Fellow at the London School of Economics 2018/19
« Formative Experiences: Foreign Correspondents in the Italo-Ethiopian War (1935-36) »
The distresses of objectivity in conflict reporting have not emerged during the wars in Vietnam or Iraq. The Spanish Civil War is usually taken as prime example of a clash of ideologies, which comprised many international journalists as active propagandists. This article highlights a prior conflagration of great importance: the Italo-Ethiopian War (1935-36). It was a formative experience for a whole generation of correspondents who rose to eminence thereafter. Still, their role in this war has hitherto been neglected and their reporting has not been closer analysed. Therefore, the Abyssinian War should not be side-lined, but moved centre stage as defining experience of a generation of foreign correspondents. By doing so, this paper shows how the cases of ‘journalism of attachment’ during the Spanish Civil War often had their immediate precedent in Ethiopia, and offers a historian’s perspective on the troubles of uncritically relying on war reports as sources.
In order to shed more light on the reporting, the paper will first analyse the reporting of two journalists who covered the war from the Ethiopian side and whose writings had the strongest influence on the war’s perception: Evelyn Waugh and George L. Steer. Hereafter, two reporters employed on the Italian side will be looked at: Herbert L. Matthews and General John F. C. Fuller. This paper can only scrutinise a few eminent (Anglo-American) correspondents, thus it will exclude the up to 200 Italian journalists who reported the conflict and largely portrayed it as liberation for the Ethiopians and muted the countless Italian war. [sic] Likewise, details on the diplomatic and military aspects will have to be spared. The paper will argue that many claims regarding the Abyssinian War, based on journalists’ accounts, should be reconsidered and critical approaches, as adopted for the Spanish Civil War, finally applied to this important formative experience of a whole generation of correspondents.