Émile Zola

Between the Iron Lady and the Wedding Cake: conflict in Belle Époque Paris

Between 1789 and 1871 Paris went through five kings, two Bonapartist empires, two republics, several revolutions and a Commune. Each had been an attempt to accommodate or neutralise one of two visions of France. The oldest was traditional and conventional; it mourned the ancien régime, and preferred the safety of autocracy over the chaos of democracy and God over science. The younger was progressive and eager for change, building on the ideas of the Enlightenment and the revolutionary ideals of 1789. We are taken through slums, cafés, law courts, theatres, brothels, strikes and demonstrations For Mike Rapport, ‘the friction between change and tradition is perhaps the defining characteristic of the modern

The Dreyfus Affair continues to haunt France to this day

A short new book on Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the proudly patriotic French army officer who was falsely accused in 1894 of being a German spy, and whose court cases divided France into two warring camps, could not have been better timed. For the division sounds horribly familiar. Liberal, democratic, secular, cosmopolitan, urban France was pitted against provincial, religious, authoritarian, anti-immigrant, chauvinistic France. Dreyfus, an assimilated Alsatian Jew, was first sentenced by a military court, using faked documents and trumped-up charges, to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island, off the coast of French Guiana. When it became obvious that it wasn’t Dreyfus who had handed military secrets to the Germans but Ferdinand