Jean Jaurés, the son of an unsuccessful businessman, was born in Castres, France, on 3rd September, 1859. He won a scholarship to the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. After graduating he taught in schools before becoming a lecturer on philosophy at the University of Toulouse (1883-85).
Jaurés was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1885. Defeated in the 1889 elections he returned to the University of Toulouse. He became increasingly radical in his political views and after reading Karl Marx he began advocating socialism. He was not a revolutionary and supported the Independent Socialists led by Alexandre Millerand.
In 1893 Jaurés was elected to the Chamber of Deputies to represent the working class area of Carmaux. He became involved in the campaign to get the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus overturned. This was not a popular cause at the time and was partly responsible for his defeat in the 1898 election.
In 1900 a congress was held where socialists attempted to obtain a united party. This proved impossible but two new grouping did emerge, the revolutionary Socialist Party of France and the French Socialist Party, under the leadership of Jaurés, that advocated a parliamentary route to power.
While out of parliament Jaurés completed his mammoth Socialist History of the French Revolution. He also joined with Aristide Briand and Rene Viviani in 1904 to establish the left-wing newspaper, L'Humanité in 1904.
As well as editing L'Humanité Jaurés continued to write history books and published The Franco-German War (1908) and The New Army (1910). At the Second International he opposed those European politicians calling for armed insurrection. Instead he advocated a policy of "peace through arbitration".
The new Socialist Party under Jaurés grew rapidly at the beginning of the century but split over the correct response to German militarism. Jaurés advocated a policy of international arbitration whereas others supported the Triple Entente.
During the war fever that swept through Europe during the summer of 1914, Jaurés continued to argue for peaceful negotiations between the European governments. On 31st July, 1914, Jean Jaurés was assassinated by a young French nationalist who wanted to go to war with Germany.