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The public military degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus

Public Domain/Henri Meyer

Seminar - Open to the Public

Taking the Bizarre Seriously in Diplomatic History

Thu., Dec. 20, 2018 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

Speaker: Ben Rhode, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

In 1898, France's military attaché in London recommended that his superiors make a secret agreement with his anonymous Irish nationalist informant in order to undermine the British Empire and counterbalance supposedly hostile British behavior. Most historical assessments have either overlooked or discounted this attaché's recommendation, considering him untrustworthy or unsober. Such an interpretation is initially appealing, especially given the bizarre and conspiratorial material in the informant's unpublished reports. This seminar will challenge prevailing scholarship that ignores or deprecates this recommendation or the attaché's credibility. It will locate the episode within the context of French concerns over Britain's exploitation of the Spanish-American War, the Dreyfus Affair, and Fashoda; a preoccupation with supposed national subversion; and alarm over the phenomenon of "fake news." Using this episode as a case study, it will argue for taking alarming or peculiar observations in the diplomatic record seriously: neither downplaying their strangeness nor overlooking how, within their context, they could be sincerely believed and hold deep appeal.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.