10. The Dreyfus Affair, Part 3

“My duty is to speak out!” – Emile Zola, J’Accuse!, 1898

Welcome back to The Land of Desire, a French history podcast dedicated to exploring all the weird adventures, mysteries and surprising backstories behind French cultural icons. This week we continue our series on The Dreyfus Affair: one of the most definitive moments in French history. When a French soldier named Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason, his trial became a national sensation, and his banishment was a triumph. There was just one teensy little problem: Alfred was innocent. Over the course of six weeks we’ll take on the crime of the century: a tale of betrayal, espionage, religious fanaticism, and a conspiracy which stretched from the meanest criminal all the way to the President himself. This week, enjoy parts three and four of our series on one of the most definitive moments in French history: “The Dreyfus Affair”.


Episode 10: “The Dreyfus Affair, Part 3”

The Case:

Star of the Dreyfus Affair
Alfred Dreyfus
An unlikely hero: Georges Picquart
An unlikely hero: Georges Picquart


Mugshot, Emile Zola's trial during the Dreyfus Affair, 1898.
Mugshot, Emile Zola’s trial during the Dreyfus Affair, 1898.

The Evidence:

The infamous bordereau of the Dreyfus Affair



Letter from Alfred Dreyfus to Felix Faure, President of France
Letter from Alfred Dreyfus to Felix Faure, President of France. Compare this handwriting to that of the bordereau.
The intercepted petit bleu
The intercepted petit bleu, which revealed the identity of the true spy
The "Henry Forgery" - The Dreyfus Affair, 1898
The “Henry Forgery” – The Dreyfus Affair, 1898. Note the faint graph paper lines still visible in the top left corner. The mismatched graph lines signaled that this incriminating document was a crude forgery.



"J'Accuse!" - Emile Zola, 1898.
“J’Accuse!” – Emile Zola, 1898.

NOTE: For those who wish to avoid spoilers, I’ll only be adding evidence to each post as it is discovered throughout the series.

Further Reading:


I found it handy to keep this Chronological History of the Dreyfus Affair handy.

Full English translation of J’Accuse! via Georgetown University.


Dawn of the Belle Époque (Mary McAuliffe, 2011)

For The Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus (Frederick Brown, 2011)

The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus (Jean-Denis Bredin, 1986): If you get one single volume history of the Dreyfus Affair, make sure it’s this one!

“Trial of the Century” (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, September 28, 2009)

“Dreyfus Was Vindicated, But What Of The French?” (Alan Riding, New York Times, July 7, 2006)