of European Unity

Biographies  |  Webquests   |  Quiz on EU history


Jean Monnet's life and
 European History


European Unity

John Simkin

Jean Monnet producing the first European
 steel ingot on 30 April 1953 in Esch-sur-Alzette



Nowadays European Union is at a crossroads. Historic steps as enlargement to 10, and shortly 12 or 13, new State members or the draft of a European constitution will change the Union that pioneers of European Unity envisaged.

The European integration process is usually taught in schools in isolation, which turns this subject into quite a juridical and uninteresting lesson in the History Curriculum. Students should learn EU history as an integral part of general World and European history.

Jean Monnet was undoubtedly one of the main founders of the European Union. By tracing Monnetís life, students are exposed to the main events of European history, from the First World War to the birth and first enlargement of the EU. 


Students should design and publish a newspaper based on Jean Monnetís life and European history. If possible, this newspaper will be uploaded on a web site. Each article will have a headline and some image to illustrate it.

Students will be organised by groups, which will have different tasks that imply diverse abilities: 

  • Elaborating statistics and graphics that highlight the fact that WWI was mainly a ďEuropean Civil WarĒ that started a painful process of self-destruction.

  • Writing a report on the main pro-European integration attempts over the Inter-war period.

  • Editing two articles on the failed Monnetís proposal of Franco-British Union in 1940 and on Winston Churchillís role in world and European political scene in the postwar first years.

  • Setting up a chronology relating Cold War, European integration process and Jean Monnetís life.

  • Writing short biographies of five other pioneers of European unity that were contemporary with Monnet.

  • Gathering and editing a collection of images to be displayed in the newspaper.

  • Designing and laying out the newspaper to be published on line.


1. First World War Statistics

Though we talked about First World War, the Great War was basically a European war. Forget Allies and Central Powers and calculate the European damage through statistics: Mobilised forces along the war,  casualties (Killed, Wounded, Prisoners)... Take into account only the current or future members of the European Union.

Elaborate, using percentages, statistics tables and graphics (Microsoft Excel) dividing the belligerent nations in EU countries (current and future members) and non-EU countries. In that last case, write the whole damage in a box and show the Russian damage in a box apart.

EU members Non EU members Russia


Encyclopedia of the First World War- War Statistics

2. Inter-War period pro-European integration initiatives

After the slaughter a new hope emerged: the League of Nations, inspired by US President Wilson, constituted a first attempt to guarantee ďcollective securityĒ to big and small countries. Nevertheless, European powers didnít learn anything from the war: Germany was humiliated in Versailles and the winners, Britain, France and Italy, stuck to their nationalist and imperialist foreign policies without any European concern for our continentís problems.

Jean Monnet, who fought for a closer alliance between France and Britain during the WWI, was named Secretary General of the League of Nations in 1919. In 1923 he resigned  to come back to manage his family business.

Quite a few Europeans drew from the war the conclusion that adopting the ideal of a united and peaceful Europe as a common project was the only solution to our continentís problems. Coudenhove-Kalergiís Paneuropa movement and Aristide Briandís Memorandum on European Unity are two significant examples of this frustrated attempt to start up a European integration process. Hitler and WWII put a tragic end to these efforts.

Write a report on these pro-European initiatives, it should include:

  • A general overview on European integration initiatives during the 1919-1939 period

  • Short biographies of Coudenhove-Kalergi and Aristide Briand.

  • A summary of their proposals on Europe with some quotations from original documents.

The European Union: Integration Process and European Citizenship

Pioneers of European Unity

European Prospect

3. World War II and its aftermath 

Franceís dramatic defeat in June 1940 brought a last desperate Monnetís proposal of Franco-British Union. Hitlerís crushing victory put a quick end to this initiative.

In September 1946, after a war that devastated Europe, Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister who had led Britain to victory, gave a famous speech at Zurich University calling up European nations to ďrecreate the European familyĒ.

 Both initiatives were born in very different historical contexts:

  •  Write a short summary of the situation of war in Europe in spring-summer 1940 and indicate the reasons of Monnetís proposal and its quick failure.

Dossier 18 Juin 1940 Ė Charles de Gaulle web site

France 1940 - Timeline

  • Write an article on Churchillís main initiatives in foreign policy after losing the 1945 General Election. The Conservative British leader delivered two celebrated speeches in 1946:

    • Set out its contents.

    • Analyse both articles and try to find a historical relationship between them. You have to take into account the general historical context that fostered the ideas of European integration.

Pioneers of European Unity

European Prospect

Second World War Encyclopaedia

The abrupt failure of the French in World War II

4. Jean Monnet and the birth of the European Economic Community (1945-1957) 

The EEC, antecedent of the current European Union, was born in a historical context, the Cold War, in which Jean Monnet had to intervene. Create a table that covers the 1945-1957 period and links the main events of the Cold War, the European integration process and Jean Monnetís life.  

  Cold War European Integration Jean Monnetís life





The European Union: Integration Process and European Citizenship

The History of the European Union - A chronology from 1946 to 2002

Cold War chronology

Foundation Jean Monnet for Europe

5. Other founders of the European Union

Write five short biographies (less than 100 words) on 5 contemporaries of Monnet who had significant roles in the European integration process. 

Pioneers of European Unity

6. Newspaper layout

Design a layout for the newspaper on-line where all the assignments will be gathered. Here you can find a possible dummy page.

Search on the internet for photographs or pictures that can illustrate the newspaper

Google Image Search

Altavista Image Search


Pioneers of European Unity

The European Union: Integration Process and European Citizenship

Encyclopedia of the First World War

Second World War Encyclopaedia

Cold War

European Prospect

Dossier 18 Juin 1940 Ė Charles de Gaulle web site

The abrupt failure of the French in World War II

France 1940 - Timeline

Foundation Jean Monnet for Europe

The History of the European Union - A chronology from 1946 to 2002

Cold War chronology


After completing up this webquest, students should be able to recognise that the first steps of European integration process, represented by Monnet's political biography, were deeply related to European and World history. They should acknowledge that the impetus that brought about the beginning of the European unity process was caused by events such as World War I and II and Cold War.

Ideally, students will change their attitude towards nationalist theories by understanding that, to a great extent,  they were liable for both first and second world war and, therefore, for the decline of Europe.

European Union The European Union: integration
process and European citizenship
European Unity
Spartacus Educational

2003 © Juan Carlos OcaŮa

Edited by Jonathan Goldberg