The snippets of conversation in this section provide a potted history of British and European affairs during the mid 1930s, a period of great political turmoil.
In October 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia. The League of Nations attempted to impose sanctions on Italy, but had little impact. Italian forces captured Addis Ababa, the capital, in May 1936.
Mare Nostrum is the Mediterranean Sea.
Evelyn Waugh spent some time in Abyssinia in 1930 when he attended the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie. The experience inspired his novel Black Mischief (1932), in which the fictional Azania is a thinly disguised Abyssinia.
Waugh returned to Abyssinia in August 1935, on the eve of war with Italy, as a foreign correspondant for the Daily Mail. The visit led him to write Waugh in Abyssinia (1936) and Scoop (1938).