The Dreyfus Affair

Ref: C3671036

The course will commence by considering France's national and international concerns during the post-1871 era, emphasising those factors which made her citizens vulnerable to an upsurge of political paranoia and religious bigotry. Against this background, the wrongful conviction of Alfred Dreyfus (a Jewish officer serving on the General Staff of the French Army) of espionage on behalf of Germany in 1894, will be thoroughly analysed. The subsequent discovery that a gross miscarriage of justice had taken place, with the knowledge and collusion of important members of the military and political hierarchy, will then be examined in detail. Finally, the ensuing division of French society into two rival camps, seeking either to overturn or preserve the flawed verdict - a bitter and drawn-out process, which outlasted the eventual retrial, pardon (1899) and exoneration (1906) of Dreyfus, and left an enduring political legacy in France and elsewhwere - will also be carefully examined.

Course aim

To examine a tragic event in French history, analysing the initial miscarriage of justice, the campaigns to overturn or uphold the verdict; and the enduring consequences of this divisive episode.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe the political, military, religious and economic factors which formed the background to the Affair.
  • Explain how such an appalling miscarriage of justice occurred, and why it was defended by influential sections of the French establishment.
  • Outline the key stages in the ensuing campaigns to exonerate or condemn Dreyfus, and identify the major figures engaged in this divisive struggle.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the long-term consequences of the Affair for France and the international community. .

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • A comprehensive booklist will be provided at the start of the first session. A class handout, outlining the material to be covered, will be given to every student for each of the seven sesssions.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full Course information sheet

The Dreyfus Affair


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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