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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sisters and Soldiers

  • Author(s): Everton, Elizabeth
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 3.0 license

In September 1894, an agent of the French Intelligence Bureau discovered alist of French military secrets in a wastebasket at the German Embassy in Paris.This document was quickly misattributed to a Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus,who was convicted in a hasty court martial and sentenced to deportation inperpetuity. Over the next four years, his sentence was challenged by allies,called “dreyfusards,” who found in the effort to reopen the case a quasi-mysticalquest in defense of truth, justice, and liberal republican ideals. They were counteredby others, the “antidreyfusards,” who saw truth as less important thanthe well-being of the nation or who believed that, being Jewish, Dreyfus wasnecessarily a traitor. In French history, memory, and culture, the Dreyfus Affairis a red-letter event – the cradle of the contemporary Left and Right and thebirthplace of the public intellectual. It is a daunting subject for a researcher, notonly because of the enormous body of literature around it but because its verysignificance has given it a degree of impenetrability. There is a certain difficultyin breaking through to the event itself, in asking different questions when faced with such familiar faces and texts.

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