Édouard Drumont, the champion of anti-Semitism in France at the end of the 19th centurye century

Édouard Drumont, the champion of anti-Semitism in France at the end of the 19th century<sup>e</sup> century

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Title: Edouard Drumont.

Author : LITTLE Pierre Lanith (1831 - 1909)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Albumen print.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Picture reference: 99-023812 / Pho1983-165-546-254

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: June 2007

Historical context

Édouard Drumont, a man of his time?

Pierre Petit's photograph belongs to the famous Félix Potin collection. He carried out this operation in two stages: a first series of 510 photographs in 1885 and another in 1907. In addition, in 1885, he has not yet published his flagship work, Jewish France, an essay on contemporary history, which did not appear until 1886.

It was thanks to the assertion of virulent anti-Semitism that Édouard Drumont acquired a strong notoriety in France at the end of the 19th century.e century. In addition to the bestseller that constituted Jewish France (65,000 copies sold in one year), Drumont published an illustrated version in 1887 and in 1892 created an openly anti-Semitic opinion newspaper, Free Speech. Free Speech will also be at the origin of the politico-financial scandal of the Panama Canal (1892), in which personalities such as Clemenceau or Albert Grévy (brother of the former president) will be involved.

Édouard Drumont therefore joined an anti-Semitic and anti-Republican far-right movement, not in the majority at the time, but strongly active in public life. Far from being an isolated individual without support, he was a man of his time.

Image Analysis

Drumont or the image of the "wise old man"

We can first look at the frame of this photograph. The format of the images distributed by the Félix Potin brands is standard (7.5 cm by 4 cm). Aware of the bright future that awaits mass distribution, the managers of Félix Potin want to stand out from the competition by offering photographs to their customers. The brand name therefore appears clearly above the image. The advertising process is obvious: make the brand known and encourage customers to complete their collection. The emerging consumer society at the start of the 20th centurye century invents advertising, without even talking about marketing. The characters represented must have a certain reputation, even a certain coefficient of sympathy among potential customers of the brand.

As for the content of the photograph, it contrasts with the traditional image of Drumont, "the eater of Jews". In 1907, his influence in society tended to decline. Pierre Petit represented a man who participated in strong political and ideological struggles, but no longer found himself at the heart of the news. The upright torso, folded arms, head held high and gaze fixed on the lens give this character, taken from an American shot, a stern, even somewhat rigid appearance. This impression is mitigated by four important elements: the age of the individual, which flirts with the sixties, the good-natured smile, the glasses and the imposing, graying beard, which give Drumont the image of a wise man. He was a writer, journalist, deputy for Algiers from 1898 to 1902, his ideas, although extremist, were shared by millions of French people. More than the anti-Semitic tribune, it is the man of experience that is highlighted here.


A desire for respectability

Born in the 1830s, Pierre Petit very quickly became a recognized photographer of the whole of Paris. From 1862 he produced more than 25,000 portraits of ecclesiastics and won the title of "episcopate photographer". He was then appointed, under the Second Empire, official photographer of the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867. Finally, he was sent to New York in the early 1880s to report on the progress of the installation of the statue of freedom. He is therefore a confirmed, morally recognized photographer whose positive image reflects on the model.

Nothing in this photograph evokes the verbal excesses, the direct insults uttered by Drumont in Jewish France or in Free Speech. Édouard Drumont wishes to recall that he was certainly a violent polemicist, but also a deputy of the Republic since he was elected in Algiers from 1898 to 1902, when his political involvement was most asserted. It is true that all the towns of the Algerian colony were at the time strongly marked by anti-Semitic riots. The two assassinations and the hundred wounded in the riots in Bab el-Oued in January 1898 bear witness to this.

Édouard Drumont managed to impose anti-Semitic theories in France during the Belle Époque, where this ideological posture did not meet with global rejection. The freedom of expression is almost total, so this character can be used as a promotional product by the Félix Potin group. For those in charge of the brand, his fame makes him a respectable man, who has the right to be part of this catalog of celebrities of France during the Belle Époque.

  • Dreyfus Affair
  • anti-semitism
  • deputies
  • nationalism
  • photography
  • portrait
  • publicity
  • Third Republic
  • Baudelaire (Charles)
  • Barrès (Mauritius)
  • French action
  • Felix Potin collection
  • Drumont (Edouard)
  • Maurras (Charles)


Pierre BIRNBAUM, The anti-Semitic moment, Paris, Fayard, 1998. Jean-Denis BREDIN, The case, Paris, Julliard, 1993.Geneviève DERMENJIAN, The Oran anti-Jewish crisis (1895-1905): anti-Semitism in colonial Algeria, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1986. Jean-Marie MAYEUR, Political life under the Third Republic, Paris, Le Seuil, 1984.Michel WINOCK, Nationalism, anti-Semitism and fascism in France, Paris, Le Seuil, 1982 (reed. 2004).

To cite this article

Vincent DOUMERC, "Édouard Drumont, the champion of anti-Semitism in France at the end of the XIXe century "

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