Jean Monnet, born on the 9th November 1888 is regarded as one of Europe’s founding fathers – they call him Mister Europe.
Born into the famous Monnet Cognac family, he decided to turn his back on formal education at the age of 16 and left Cognac for London. He remained here for 2 years, learning both English and commerce.
Prior to the First World War he entered into the military, but was discharged due to health reasons in 1914. But by then he had already come around to the viewpoint that what would lead to a victory for the allies was for France and Britain to work together, and he proposed a plan to this effect. This was duly implemented, and in 1919 he was appointed Secretary General of the newly formed League of Nations.
But come 1923, disillusioned with the slow bureaucracy involved, he resigned his position and returned to head up the family cognac business which had run into troubled times. In 1927 he left to once again to concentrate on his political career, and over the following years was instrumental in many major factors in Europe, the USA and China.
The Cognaçais brought De Gaulle and Churchill together
1939 saw Jean Monnet in London to oversee the French and British war capabilities, and he played a major part in influencing both Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle to form an alliance between their two countries similar to the one between Germany and Italy. 1940 saw him back in the USA as an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, and his influence was a major reason that the US began to supply the Allies with military material.
In 1943 he became a member of the National Liberation Committee. This was when he mooted the idea that the countries of Europe needed to become a federation in order to ensure each and every countries prosperity and development. Managing to stave of friction between France and Germany in 1949 over coal and steel production, he took a further step towards his goal in 1955 when he founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe. This brought European trade unions together with political parties and laid the foundations for the European Union.
Monnet was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. He died aged 90 in 1963, safe in the knowledge that he had succeeded in his goal of unifying the countries of Europe.
Sources: www.historiasiglo20.org, monnet-cognac.com, en.wikipedia.org