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The Catholic Press in France on the Eve of the Dreyfus Affair, 1895-1897

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Title The Catholic Press in France on the Eve of the Dreyfus Affair, 1895-1897
Author: Pieragastini, Steven
Abstract: The Assumptionist Order, founded in 1845-46 by Emmanuel d’Alzon, and its publishing house La Maison de la Bonne Presse, effectively spread an idiosyncratic gospel of traditionalism in the first decades of the French Third Republic. This was accomplished primarily through its national daily newspaper La Croix, which became a leading voice in the anti-Dreyfusard campaign during the Dreyfus Affair. This investigation raises questions about the nature of French Catholicism as a whole at the end of the nineteenth century and its relationship to antisemitism. A number of excellent studies have looked at the Catholic press’s role at the height of the Affair. Few have looked closely at the “lull” period between Dreyfus’s public degradation and the trials of Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy and Émile Zola. The central focus of my research has been on the nature of the Catholic press during these years of relative silence. This paper will show that while events and predispositions fed off of each other, the ground had already been prepared at La Bonne Presse for a rancorous assertion of Catholic nationalism and antisemitism before 1898. Insofar as possible, this study will use the press as one perspective on French popular Catholicism. Too many histories of the Dreyfus Affair track only the political or legal-procedural course of events. Even those that do look at social and cultural aspects of the Dreyfus Affair tend to treat French Catholics as a fairly homogenous and static group. However, this paper will examine the gradations and range of opinions within this group.
Date: 2009-05-15

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