Aristide Briand was born at Nantes, France, on 28th March, 1862. While a law student he developed socialist ideas and after leaving university wrote for Le Peuple, La Lanterne and Petite République.
Briand, became secretary-general of the French Socialist Party in 1901 and the following year was elected to Chamber of Deputies. In 1904 he joined with Jean Jaurés to establish the left-wing newspaper, L'Humanité in 1904.
In 1906 Briand was expelled from the party for accepting office in the coalition government headed by Georges Clemenceau. As minister of public instruction and worship (1906-09) Briand helped to complete the separation of Church and State in France.
In July 1909 Briand became prime minister and horrified his former socialist colleagues when he broke up a railway stoppage by calling up some of the strikers for military service. Briand further upset the left-wing by supporting the extension of compulsory military service. He lost power in November 1910 but returned to office briefly in 1913.
On the outbreak of the First World War Briand became Justice Minister in the French government headed by Rene Viviani. A powerful cabinet figure, Briand advocated French intervention on the Balkan Front and promoted the merits of the socialist general, Maurice Sarrail.
In October 1915, the French president, Raymond Poincare appointed Briand as prime minister. His attempts to establish political control over the military high command ended in failure and he was unable to persuade Joseph Joffre, chief of general staff in the French Army, to change his tactics on the Western Front. However, after French losses at Verdun Briand was able to remove Joffre from power.
Georges Clemenceau, editor of L'Homme Libre, became highly critical of Briand's decision not to persecute pacifists and his refusal to sack his interior minister, Louis Malvy, who favoured a negotiated peace.
Briand backed the Nivelle Offensive and when this failed, the resignation of Hubert Lyautey in November 1917, brought the government down. Briand was now replaced by his long-time rival, Georges Clemenceau, as prime minister.
Briand returned to power in 1921 and as well as being prime minister (1921-22, 1925-26 and 1929) he was also foreign minister between 1925 and 1932. While in this post he put forward the idea of a European Federal Union. He gained support from Edouard Herriot but the idea stimulated little interest and was not taken up by other political leaders.
Briand became a great supporter of international pacifism through the League of Nations. He also championed Franco-German reconciliation and in 1926 shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Gustav Stresemann. Two years later he and Frank. B. Kellogg signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact (Pact of Paris). The treaty outlawed war between France and the United States. The US Senate ratified it in 1929 and over the next few years forty-six nations signed a similar agreement committing themselves to peace.
Aristide Briand died in Paris on 7th March, 1932.