Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish army officer. The son of a wealthy textile manufacturer.
Dreyfus commenced his military career in 1882 and by 1889 had reached the rank of captain. Soon afterwards he moved to the War Ministry. He was accused of selling military secrets to the Germans whilst working for the French War Ministry. The case against him began in 1894 and led to his imprisonment. However the legal proceedings dragged on for another twelve years until 1906 when he was finally cleared and his earlier convictions quashed. Known as the Dreyfus affair, the case created deep divisions between the liberal intelligentsia and more conservative, anti-semitic elements of French society.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911, online edition, http://14.1911encyclopedia.org (accessed August 2004).