Letters reveal key role played by 'passionate' wife in securing justice for Alfred Dreyfus

Historians in the News

Fresh light has been thrown on the Dreyfus Affair, the cause célèbre that divided France and shook the world in the late 19th century, by the discovery of thousands of unpublished letters.

Following the exile of Captain Alfred Dreyfus after his wrongful conviction for spying for Germany against France, his wife, Lucie, was portrayed as a bourgeois heroine, the epitome of the dutiful Victorian spouse. But, according to her letters, she was a passionate woman whose undying love for her husband rescued him from the brink of suicide.

Family solidarity, particularly the extent of support from Dreyfus's brother Mathieu, is also revealed in letters that he wrote, which had been previously ignored by scholars because of their barely decipherable handwriting. Backed by a wealthy author and politician, Joseph Reinach, Mathieu had devoted himself to orchestrating the campaign for his "soulmate".

An Oxford historian, Ruth Harris, has gained access to many thousands of unpublished letters, and letters not yet published in English, which delve further into Dreyfus and the miscarriage of justice that sparked political turmoil.

Dreyfus was a patriotic French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent who was convicted of spying with forged evidence. In 1894 a cleaner at the German embassy in Paris who was working for French intelligence found a torn-up letter in the military attaché's waste-paper bin. The document contained military secrets supplied by an unidentified French army officer....
Read entire article at Guardian (UK)

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