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“Sad Era, Villainous Affair“

The Dreyfus Affair in the Notebooks of Henri Vever

Willa Z. Silverman

This article analyzes representations of the Dreyfus Affair in the private diaries written between 1898 and 1901 by Henri Vever, a prominent Art Nouveau jeweler, art collector, and small-town mayor. The important place accorded the Affair in these “ordinary writings“ by an individual with no direct engagement in it offers an opportunity to assess how historical events become enmeshed with private life, mentalités, and sociability. Further, Vever's notebooks reveal position taking during the Affair as a complex phenomenon, in Vever's case influenced by circumstances encompassing his identity as both a native of Lorraine, marked by France's defeat in 1870, and a Republican notable and Parisian businessman. While Vever's notebooks corroborate some standard themes of Dreyfus Affair historiography, including the importance of the press and the eclipsing of the Affair by the 1900 World's Fair, they also nuance the idea of a rigid ideological division between Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards.

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Of Traiteurs and Tsars

Potel et Chabot and the Franco-Russian Alliance

Willa Z. Silverman

Between 1893 and 1901, the Parisian traiteur Potel et Chabot catered a series of gala meals celebrating the recent Franco-Russian alliance, which was heralded in France as ending its diplomatic isolation following the Franco-Prussian War. The firm was well adapted to the particularities of the unlikely alliance between Tsarist Russia and republican France. On the one hand, it represented a tradition of French luxury production, including haute cuisine, that the Third Republic was eager to promote. On the other, echoing the Republic’s championing of scientific and technological progress, it relied on innovative transportation and food conservation technologies, which it deployed spectacularly during a 1900 banquet for over twenty-two thousand French mayors, a modern “mega-event.” Culinary discourse therefore signaled, and palliated concerns about, the improbable nature of the alliance at the same time as it revealed important changes taking place in the catering profession.