Wherever you go in France you’re sure to come across a Place Jean Jaurès, a rue Jean Jaurès, Avenue Jean Jaurès, schools and even metro stations of that name in Paris and Lyon.
Every French school child will learn about Jean Jaurès. He is one of the most well-known figures of French history, though he is hardly known outside his home country.
Who was Jean Jaurès
Born 1859 in the Tarn region, Jean Jaurès became one of the most celebrated figures of French history, a social thinker, anti-war campaigner and politician. A man who has left his mark on French culture.
He was famous for his eloquent speeches, for standing up for workers’ rights and as one of the founding members and leader of the French Socialist Party, the forerunner to France’s Socialist Party. He also founded the socialist newspaper L’Humanité, still sold today.
On a Friday evening July 31, 1914, a 29-year-old French nationalist by the name of Raoul Villain arrived at the Café du Croissant. It’s still there, at 146 Rue Montmartre, Paris. He pulled a pistol from his pocket and fired two shots at a diner. The bullets struck his target twice in the head. The hits were fatal for Jean Jaurès, the victim, dining with the editor of L’Humanité.
Nowadays Jaurès is best remembered for his anti-militarism and attempts to avert the outbreak of the First World War.
“Never, for forty years, has Europe been in a more threatening and more tragic situation,” he warned in the spring of 1914. He had been trying to force governments to find a path other than war by organising workers strikes in Europe. It didn’t please everyone.
His assassination brought the strike actions to an end. Just hours later, Germany declared war on Russia and two days later on France. By August 4 when Jaurès was buried, all the major powers of Europe were officially at war.
Jean Jaurès’ final resting place is in the Pantheon, Paris.
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