The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics

The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics

The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics

The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics


The Dreyfus affair remains one of the most famous miscarriages of justice in modern times. Eric Cahm's study does justice to the human drama, whilst also throwing light on the wider society and politics of the Third Republic in the traumatic years after the Franco-Prussian War. This wide-ranging survey - the only short modern account in English anchors the Affair in its full social and political context. Organised round a narrative of events, it offers portraits of all the main characters, substantial extracts from key sources in fresh translations, a comprehensive bibliography and a detailed chronology.


That there is nothing new to be said about the Dreyfus Affair is an almost universal illusion in France. 'Surely it has all been said already?': this opening gambit seems to have become commonplace. So that when I was invited to produce, in French, a short paperback on the subject for students and general readers, I did not only want to seize the opportunity to re-tell the familiar story as clearly and concisely as I could, giving due weight to all the events, the larger- than-life characters and the locations of the Affair, and synthesizing the findings of the most recent research. I also wanted to demonstrate that there is still much awaiting discovery about one of the Third Republic's most profound crises, even after a century's study, which has produced a veritable mountain of books and articles.

The illusion that everything has been said already is fostered precisely by this terrifying weight of existing work, as well as by the undoubted fact that everything worth saying has indeed been said about the whodunnit side of the subject and the role of the General Staff, notably by Marcel Thomas in L'Affaire sans Dreyfus (1961). However, in the last three decades, the attention of serious scholars has shifted to the political, social and cultural dimensions of the Affair, and work continues apace in these areas. The publications of 1994-95, coinciding with the centenary of Dreyfus's first trial, have now shown that the international impact of the Affair is only today, for the first time, being seriously tackled on a world-wide basis (see p. 194).

The present book, by its title and its contents, aims to take account, therefore, of the research of recent decades, bearing notably on the reception of the Affair in France by individuals, social classes, religious denominations and the political parties, and the forms of its interaction with society and politics.

I have summarized, too, in the Prelude and the first chapter, some of the findings of my own research, centring on the Affair and public opinion in 1894-95, which was based on an exhaustive study of the . . .

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