1888-1914: The formative years

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Cognac Distillery: Jean Monnet, standing up at the top, first from the left
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I was born in Cognac in 1888 into a family of brandy merchants.

In the world I grew up in, one did only one thing, with concentration and patience; it was the only way of making a good product.

My memories are of a serious and disciplined childhood. When I played in the wine cellars as a child, I had all the space in the world. Why worry myself about the path I was going to take in life, when my natural calling was to continue in my father’s footsteps?

By the time I was sixteen, I was already a traveller.

I went to London to learn English. I discovered the City. I observed the traditions of the British business world. When I set out on my first trip far from home, my father said to me: “Don’t take books. Nobody else can think for you. Look out the window and talk to the people.” I was on my way to visit our customers in Winnipeg, rough people living in a harsh climate…

I met people whose work was not to manage what already existed but rather to develop it unceasingly.

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Jean Monnet with his parents in 1938
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