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Learn About the Dreyfus Affair

Dreyfus TrialThe lesson plans listed below introduce students to the Dreyfus Affair by using primary documents from the Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Alfred Dreyfus Affair. In the lessons students will use these primary sources to understand how one event can lead to multiple interpretations as well as how all history holds a bias. All of the lessons include a lesson plan for the teachers, handouts for the students, and questions to be used in the lesson. Documents for the lessons are made available in both PDF and MS Word format, they can be viewed online if the students have access to computers or they can be printed out and distributed to the class.



Lesson 1 Using Comic Strips to Teach Multiple Perspectives
This lesson uses two comic strips that were printed during the time of the Affair, one portraying Dreyfus as an innocent man wrongfully accused and the other portraying Dreyfus as a traitor to France.
Lesson 2 Decoding Propaganda
This lesson uses translated excerpts from two different versions of the famous "J'Accuse...!" newspaper article. The first is the original article by Emile Zola that claims that Dreyfus was innocent and that there was a widespread conspiracy to make the accusations against him hold up in the French court. The second article, written Edouard Drumont, is titled "J'Accuse!..." and it was written in response to Zola's article. This second version accuses Dreyfus of being guilty of the treason for which he has been charged.
Lesson 3 Using Political Postcards to Teach a Revolution of Political Thought
This lesson uses a series of six Dreyfus-era political postcards to teach students how the use of political postcards revolutionized common people's ability to express political thought.
Lesson 4 A Mock Trial
In this lesson students will participate in a mock trial. They will be divided into three groups: the prosecution team, the defense team and the jury. They will have access to facsimiles of documents that were presented as evidence at the actual trial of Alfred Dreyfus.
Lesson 5 From the Dreyfus Affair to the World Today
This lesson will include a translated excerpt of Emil Zola's "J'Accuse...!" and an excerpt from Hannah Arendt's article "From the Dreyfus Affair to France Today," written in English in 1942.