Dreyus at Rennes, 27 August 1899.
© David Nathan-Maister / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustration from 'La Petite Gironde'. The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal which divided France for many years during the late 19th century. It centered on the 1894 treason conviction of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army. Dreyfus was, in fact, innocent: the conviction rested on false documents, and when high-ranking officers realised this they attempted to cover up the mistakes. The writer Emile Zola exposed the affair to the general public in the literary newspaper L'Aurore (The Dawn) in a famous open letter to the President of France Felix Faure, titled J'accuse! (I Accuse!) on January 13, 1898. In the words of historian Barbara W Tuchman, it was "one of the great commotions of history". The Dreyfus Affair split France between the Dreyfusards (those supporting Alfred Dreyfus) and the Anti-Dreyfusards (those against him).