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Dreyfus Affair

Andrew J. Waskey

Subject History » Political History
Applied Psychology » Political Psychology

Place Western Europe » France

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899, 1900-1999

Key-Topics bibliography, inequality, Jewish, racism, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00482.x


Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer who, in the 1890s, was the victim of anti-Semitism on the part of the French general staff. The case sparked a political scandal, known as the Dreyfus Affair, that caused bitter divisions in France for decades. The affair first brought to light a putrid and malodorous underside of French society that sought to base the honor of its military forces on an explicit and notorious act of injustice. At the same time, it gave rise to one of history's most influential protest movements in defense of the principles of human rights. Alfred Dreyfus was born at Mulhouse, Alsace, on October 19, 1859, into a wealthy Jewish textile-manufacturing family. By the early 1890s he had become an artillery officer seconded to the War Office in Paris, where he lived in a prosperous home with his wife and children. In 1894 the French counterintelligence service discovered in the trash from the German embassy in Paris a list of secret French artillery documents that someone had given to the Germans. The discovery led to a search for the spy. Dreyfus became a target of the investigation because he was an artillery officer on the French general staff and because he was Jewish. An examination of his finances and a search for a possible mistress yielded nothing. Nor was there anything to connect him with the recovered list, because it was not written in his ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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