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Famous Europeans. Biography

A list of famous Europeans.

Founding Fathers of the European Union

Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) Adenauer was West Germany’s first chancellor after the Second World War. He was keen to forge closer ties with the USA, France and the rest of Europe. He played a key role in the re-integration of Germany in European affairs, which became a critical backbone of the European community.

willy-brandt Willy Brandt (1913-1992) German politician and statesman. Opposed to Hitler, he fled to Norway. After WWII he became Mayor of Berlin playing a vital role to defuse tensions during the Cold War stand-off with the Soviet Union. Became Chancellor of Germany in 1979, made a famous gesture of reconciliation to victims of Nazi Germany at Warsaw. He sought rapprochement with the East and creating a stronger, united Europe.

Walter Hallstein (1901 – 1982) German diplomat and statesman. He was one of the key architects of the European Coal and Steel Community – the forerunner of the EEC. He became the first President of the Commission of the European Economic Community from 1958-67. He was a keen federalist and worked towards the integration of Europe.

Jean Monnet (1888 – 1979) French statesman who played a key role in founding the Coal and Steel pact which helped improve relations between France and Germany. In 1955, Monnet founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe. His successfully lobbying led to the creation of the EEC ‘Common Market’ in 1958.

Joseph Bech (1887-1973) Bech was a politician from Luxembourg who is considered a founding father of the EU. With other Benelux countries, he helped convene the Messina conference of 1955, which led to the Treaty of Rome and creation of the European Economic Community in 1958.

Johan Willem Beyen (1897-1976) Beyen was a Dutch politician who helped create an impetus for the creation of the EEC. After the breakdown of talks over a common European foreign policy, Beyen was one of the Benelux countries who helped push for horizontal integration and the revival of the idea about European integration.

Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970) Under de Gaulle’s presidency, France became a member of the EEC, and de Gaulle spoke enthusiastically about a European federation. However, de Gaulle partly saw the EEC as an antidote to the US, and de Gaulle blocked the UK’s admission. However, he did help cement better relations with Germany.

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) Churchill led resistance to Nazi Germany and contributed to the liberation of Europe. In 1946, he made a speech calling for a united Europe. ‘We must build a kind of United States of Europe.’ However, Churchill did not envisage the UK as part of Europe.

European Revolutionaries

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) – French military and political leader. Napoleon revolutionised Europe. He cemented the ideas of the French revolution (in his own autocratic style) and enabled these ideas, and his Napoleonic code to be spread across Europe.

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) Italian political activist. Campaigned for a united Republic of Italy. Mazzini supported several insurrections against the foreign rule of Italian states. He played a key role in cementing support for a united Italy.

Mazzini also supported initiatives for European wide federation.

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) – National hero of Italy. Garibaldi led volunteer army in the Italian Wars of Independence. He played a key role in uniting Italy. He also fought in Latin America and became known as ‘The Hero of Two Worlds’

V.Lenin (1870-1924) – Leader of Russian Revolution in 1917. He masterminded the Bolshevik revolution and became the first leader of the Soviet Union.

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931 – ) Russian President during the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev initiated a policy of Glasnost and Perestroika. These policies of reform and openness led to the ending of Communist party rule in the Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin wall. In a short space of time, Eastern European countries attained freedom and democracy, allowing Eastern Europe to become part of the European Union.

Famous European Women

Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) Wife of King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette is often held up as a symbol of Royal decadence and profligacy, which sparked the French revolution. Whether fair or not, she was executed in 1793 for treason.

Catherine the Great (1729- 1796) Catherine ruled as Queen of Russia from 1762 until her death. Under her leadership, Russia was revitalised as a major European power. She began a process of reforming Russian society.

Joan of Arc – (1412-1431) – French peasant girl who inspired the French Dauphin to renew the French fight against occupying English forces. Seven years after death, as she had predicted, the English were defeated.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Elizabeth took the English throne after a period of great instability following the reign of her father Henry VIII. Under her rule, England became a major power and enjoyed a period of relative stability.

Angela_Merkel Angela Merkel (1954 – ) Merkel has been chancellor of Germany since 2005 and the de facto leader of the European Union during the European financial crisis and also increasing the role of Germany in foreign affairs.

European Philosophers

John Locke (1632-1704) John Locke made important contributions to the theory of liberal democracy. In his “The two treatises of the government” Locke argued that a government’s right to rule must be based on the consent of its people. Locke emphasised the idea of a ‘social contract’ – power sanctioned by the people. Locke also emphasised that all men were equal – at a time when societies were very hierarchical.

Baron de Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) French philosopher. Montesquieu was a key figure in the Enlightenment. Montesquieu wrote on political theory, advocating a ‘separation of powers’ and other democratic principles. In his The Spirit of the Laws (1748), he distinguished democracy from other types of government.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher who wrote the Social Contract – an influential political tract which argued for government through representation – ideally through direct democracy. Rousseau’s democratic ideals were influential in the French Revolution.

Thomas Paine (1737- 1809 ) English-American philosopher. Thomas Paine was an influential writer who powerfully argued for democratic republican government. Paine’s writings were influential in inspiring the American revolution. Paine wanted to see an end to executive tyranny and felt the extension of political power to all was the best way to achieve this.

J.S. Mill (1806-1873) John Stuart Mill was a leading liberal philosopher of the Nineteenth Century. He argued for universal suffrage (extending the vote to women and all classes of people) Mill also expounded the principle of liberty – which is an important principle of liberal democracy. His pamphlet The Subjection of Women (1861) was important for raising the issue of votes for women.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Europeans”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 07/08/2013. Updated 26 January 2018.

Europe – a history. A historical narrative that stretches from the Ice Age to the Atomic Age, by Norman Davies at Amazon

Other Famous Europeans

Jacques Delors (1925 – ) French economist and politician. Served as eighth President of the EU. A key architect of the European single currency.

Mrs Thatcher – British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. Mrs Thatcher was known for her Euro-scepticism and arguments with Jacques Delors. But, she still signed the Single European Act of 1987, which extended the powers of the EC.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) – German dictator 1933-1935

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) – Fascist dictator of Italy

See also

leonardo-da-vinci People of the Renaissance (1350s to 1650s) The Renaissance covers the flowering of art and culture in Europe. Primarily in art, but also in science. Includes Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

artArtists – A list of the great artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Michelangelo and Rembrandt.

Famous French – A list of famous French men and women. Includes politicians, generals, artists, sportsmen and cultural figures, such as Napoleon, Marie Antionette, De Gaulle, Claude Monet, and Coco Chanel.

Famous Italians – Italian composers, artists, politicians and authors. Includes Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, St Francis of Assisi, Michelangelo, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Catherine of Sienna.