Jean-Joseph-Marie-Auguste Jaures was one of the leaders of the French Socialist movement during its formative years. He was born in Castres, France on September 3, 1859 and attended the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, earning the title agrege de philosophie. Upon graduation he worked as a teacher at the lycee of Albi (1881-83) and as a lecturer at the University of Toulouse (1883-85).
He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1885 with no political affiliation. After his defeat in 1889, he returned to the university. In 1891 he presented two theses for his doctorate. He was returned to the chamber during the by-election of 1893. Although he was defeated again in 1898, he served again after being elected in 1902, 1906, 1910 and 1914.
By his election in 1893 he had adopted Socialism, although he belonged to the least revolutionary of the five schools of French Socialism (the Independent Socialists). His views never did coincide exactly with Marxism.
Although he agreed with the Marxist theory that class struggle was a motivating force in historical evolution, he felt that the idealistic aspirations of society wer of primary importance. He and his supporters believed they should work towards the gradual adoption of democratic socialism.
In 1905 the two remaining socialist parties joined under his leadership, forming the Section Grancaise de l'Internationale Ouvrire (French Section of the Worker's International).
Jaures was hostile towards the idea of a Franco-Russian alliance, and mistrustful of the Franco-British alliance he saw as being aimed against Germany. Jaures championed the idea of a Franco-German alliance, and this stand earned him the hatred of French nationalists.
In 1894 Jaures became involved in the Dreyfus Affair. He was convinced that Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was innocent, and that his conviction of treason was based on forged evidence. It was this stand that cost Jaures the election in 1898.
Jaures was assassinated in Paris on July 31, 1914 by Raoul Villain, three days before the start of World War I. (Villain is described as "a young aesthete of 29 who was tinged with insanity").