Edward Berenson recounts the trial of Henriette Caillaux, the wife of a powerful French cabinet minister, who murdered her husband's enemy Le Figaro editor Gaston Calmette, in March 1914, on the eve of World War I. In analyzing this momentous event, Berenson draws a fascinating portrait of Belle Epoque politics and culture.
Berenson, professor of history at UCLA, writes a gender micro-history of the Belle Epoque in France (1890-1914) by examining the trial and acquittal of Madame Henriette Caillaux. On March 14, 1914 she fatally shot Gaston Calmette, editor of Le Figaro , motivated by the press campaign he was conducting against her husband, Joseph Caillaux, an influential left-wing cabinet minister. Utilizing courtroom transcripts and press coverage of the proceedings which riveted the attention of the nation, the author presents a carefully researched analysis that yields insights into the years when early feminism was beginning to affect social mores. Through the behavior and statements of the trial's participants, a societal portrait of the complex power relationship between men and women of the period emerges in this fine academic history. Illustrated.