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Dreyfus Affair periodicals collection

Historical note

This collection of periodicals focuses on the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal which rocked France from the 1890's into the 1900's and Émile Zola's involvement in it. Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), a promising young Jewish artillery officer in the French army was accused and twice wrongly convicted of treason. His trial, imprisonment on Devil's Island, retrial, pardon and ultimate reinstatement into the army split France into dreyfusards and anti-dreyfusards for decades. The involvement of both political liberals and the new wave of French literary figures, represented most prominently by Zola (1840-1902), in the Dreyfus cause helped to move France away from a church dominated state to one more in line with the political developments in the other big European powers. The scandal was directly responsible for the passage of a 1905 law declaring separation of church and state in France. Allegations persist that Zola, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning from an improperly vented chimney, was actually murdered; years later, a mason made a deathbed confession that he had been paid by conservative anti-dreyfusards to tamper with the chimney. The French army only accepted Dreyfus's innocence officially in 1995 in spite of the fact that he had served with distinction in World War I and been reinstated as a member of the Legion d'Honneur. Repercussions continue into the 21st century. Jacques Chirac held a ceremony in 1998 to commemorate the printing of Zola's defense of Dreyfus, the famous J'accuse, and another in 2006, the one hundredth anniversary of the final overturning of Dreyfus's conviction. Chirac chose to hold this ceremony with descendants of both Zola and Dreyfus in attendance in the very courtyard where Dreyfus had been officially stripped of all military trappings and his sword broken.