Piers Paul Read: France is Still Fractured by the Dreyfus AffairRoundup: Talking About History
Piers Paul Read’s 'The Dreyfus Affair: The Story of the Most Infamous Miscarriage of Justice in French History’ is published by Bloomsbury this week.
France in the last decades of the 19th century saw an extraordinary flourishing in the arts, the sciences and technology which, along with its climate of sexual permissiveness, earned this period the title of la belle époque. To celebrate these achievements, the French government prepared for a Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900, with an ambitious programme of building that included two railway stations, Gare de Lyon and Gare d’Orsay, and two exhibition halls, the Grand and the Petit Palais.
These plans were suddenly jeopardised, in the autumn of 1899, by an international campaign to boycott the exhibition, a result of the outrage felt throughout the world at the conviction, at a court martial in Rennes, of a Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, on charges of passing secret documents to the Germans. This was his second court martial. The first, five years earlier, had led to a sentence of life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. A campaign by his family, his lawyer and a small number of supporters had eventually uncovered overwhelming evidence that the traitor was not Dreyfus but another officer, Charles Walsin-Esterhazy. However, senior officers on the general staff and in military intelligence feared that to admit a miscarriage of justice would not just lose them their jobs but discredit the army. To thwart a revision of the case against Dreyfus, they resorted to a series of threats, forgeries and dirty tricks.
On January 13, 1898, France’s leading novelist, Émile Zola, entered the fray with a polemic, J’Accuse, naming the officers responsible for the conspiracy against Dreyfus. It was hailed as heroic by the Left, outrageous by the Right, and provoked anti-Semitic riots throughout France. Opinion abroad was incredulous. How could France, the most civilised country in Europe, experience this eruption of medieval barbarism? Why had the case of one Jewish officer led to this rage against all Jews?...
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Mary Beard, herself a bestselling author, wonders why more women historians aren't
- Princeton U. historian Imani Perry claims mistreatment in parking ticket arrest
- Retired historian George Dennison remains on the payroll at the U. of Montana while faculty are cut
- The Atlantic profiles exciting ways to teach history
- LDS Church has gone from 0 to 4 historians specializing in women’s history