The Roots of Revisionism: Revolutionary France and Fascist Italy

  • Jason W. Davidson


In this chapter, I evaluate the argument outlined in chapter 2 by comparing its claims to three historical cases of rising states and revisionism. This chapter asks: what conditions led these three rising states to adopt revisionist goals? First, I attempt to explain the origins of Revolutionary France’s “natural frontiers” goals of February 1793. The nationalist sans-culottes demanded an aggressive foreign policy appropriate to their view of French greatness. For French elites, expansion of France’s borders to the Rhine promised both to make France more secure and to appease the sans-culottes. Moreover, the revolutionary government perceived the opportunity to successfully revise the status quo due to the lack of resolve by France’s likely adversaries—Austria, Prussia, and Britain. Second, I probe the reasons for Fascist Italy’s 1939 “Mare Nostrum” goals. By the late 1930s, Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini had become convinced that expansionism abroad was the best way to stay in power at home. His expansionist behavior abroad had also made it clear to him how limited Italy’s autonomy was, especially in the Mediterranean. When Germany offered Italy an expansionist alliance and Britain and France demonstrated low resolve, Italy’s leaders knew that it had an excellent chance to achieve its revisionist goals. At the end of the chapter I offer a brief case-study of Japan in the 1980s. That case provides an interesting contrast because Japan sought to revise the nature of regional markets, rather than territory. In addition, the Japan case demonstrates the importance of domestic politics in the origins of revisionism.


Foreign Policy Suez Canal Favorable Balance Nationalist Sentiment Fascist Regime 
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© Jason W. Davidson 2006

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