Robert Gildea is Professor of Modern History at Oxford University. His most recent book is Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799–1914. (June 2010)

How to Understand the Dreyfus Affair

Alfred Dreyfus in a police photograph by Alphonse Bertillon immediately after the military degradation ceremony that followed his conviction for treason, January 1895
On February 13, 1898, the French newspaper Le Figaro carried a cartoon by the caricaturist Caran d’Ache. In the first frame the bearded man presiding at a family dinner as a manservant brings on the soup says, “Above all, we must not talk about the Dreyfus Affair.” In the second, …