The Path to Global War


    This prescribed subject focuses on military expansion from 1931 to 1941. Two case studies are prescribed, from different regions of the world, and both of these case studies must be studied. The first case study explores Japanese expansionism from 1931 to 1941, and the second case study explores German and Italian expansionism from 1933 to 1940. The focus of this prescribed subject is on the causes of expansion, key events, and international responses to that expansion. Discussion of domestic and ideological issues should therefore be considered in terms of the extent to which they contributed to this expansion, for example, economic issues, such as the long-term impact of the Great Depression, should be assessed in terms of their role in shaping more aggressive foreign policy.

    Case studies Material for detailed study
    Case study 1: Japanese expansion in East Asia (1931–1941) Causes of expansion

    • The impact of Japanese nationalism and militarism on foreign policy
    • Japanese domestic issues: political and economic issues, and their impact on foreign relations
    • Political instability in China


    • Japanese invasion of Manchuria and northern China (1931)
    • Sino-Japanese War (1937–1941)
    • The Three Power/Tripartite Pact; the outbreak of war; Pearl Harbor (1941)


    • League of Nations and the Lytton report
    • Political developments within China—the Second United Front
    • International response, including US initiatives and increasing tensions between the US and Japan
    Case study 2:
    German and Italian expansion
    Causes of expansion

    • Impact of fascism and Nazism on the foreign policies of Italy and Germany
    • Impact of domestic economic issues on the foreign policies of Italy and Germany
    • Changing diplomatic alignments in Europe; the end of collective security; appeasement


    • German challenges to the post-war settlements (1933–1938)
      Italian expansion: Abyssinia (1935–1936); Albania; entry into the Second World War
    • German expansion (1938–1939); Pact of Steel, Nazi–Soviet Pact and the outbreak of war


    • International response to German aggression (1933–1938)
    • International response to Italian aggression (1935–1936)
    • International response to German and Italian aggression (1940)


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