The bankruptcy of the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique de Panama on the 4th of Februari 1889 was front-page news all over the civilised word. Some 80.000 shareholders were duped. The downfall of the enterpise that had failed to complete the canal across the Isthmus of Panama led to judicial inquiries and parliamentary investigations. An extensive criss-cross pattern of corruption was revealed. Leading journalists and politicians had been bribed by the company which was led by the aged Ferdinand the Lesseps - builder of the Suez Canal - and Gustave Eiffel - builder of the newly-opened Eiffel Tower - to present positive news about the progress of the project and to support laws that made it possible for the Compagnie Universelle to issue bond loans in combination with a lottery. The scandal gave birth to a vehement anti-Semitic campaign in 1892 which was aimed at two bankers who had acted as mediators: Baron de Reinach and Julius Herz. Hence the Panama scandal is often seen as a preliminary to the Dreyfus affair. In the article the scandal is seen in the light of anti-Semistism as a phenomena that is not specific to right-wing politicians and in the light of a political culture in which politics journalism and public opinion have a colour that is peculiar to the period under consideration.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis

Wedman, Homme. (2007). Het Panama-schandaal (1889-1893). De staat, de straat en de boosdoeners. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 10(2), 6–20. doi:10.18146/tmg.555