Stresemann was born in Berlin on May 10 1878. He came from middle class origins, as the son of a Berlin inkeeper and beer distributor. However, he attended Universities of Berlin and Leipzig, studied philosophy and literature and received a doctorate in economics. He also became a spokesman for his student association.
In 1902 he founded the Saxon Manufacturers' Association. In 1903 he married Käte Kleefeld, daughter of a Jewish Berlin businessman. In 1906 he was elected into Dresden town council. Though he had initially worked in trade associations, Stresemann soon became a leader of the National Liberal Party in Saxony, being elected to the Reichstag in 1907, where he soon became a close associate of party chairman Ernst Bassermann. However, he disagreed with the most conservative party member and lost his post in the party's executive committee in 1912 and later the same year both his parliamentary and town council seats. He returned to business and founded the German-American Economic Association. He returned to Reichstag in 1914. He was exempted from the war service due to poor health.
Although before the outbreak of World War I, Stresemann had been associated with the left wing of the National Liberals, but during the war his support for Germany's expansionist goals caused him to gradually move to the right. He was one of the proponents of the unrestricted submarine warfare. Stresemann's association with the far right led to his exclusion from the new German Democratic Party after the war, leading him to found his own party, the German People's Party, composed of the right wing of the old National Liberal Party.
Although the party was initially seen, along with the more straightforwardly conservative German National People's Party, as part of the "national opposition" to the Weimar Republic, particularly for its ambivalent attitude towards the Freikorps and the Kapp Putsch in 1920, Stresemann gradually tried more and more to work with the parties of the left and center. One reason for this was probably political murders like that of Walther Rathenau. In August 13 1923, in the midst of the Ruhr Crisis, he was appointed Chancellor of a grand coalition government.
As Chancellor, Stresemann went a long way towards resolving the crisis, but some of his moves - like his refusal to deal firmly with culprits of the Beer Hall Putsch - alienated the Social Democrats, who left the coalition and caused its collapse in November 23 1923. Stresemann remained as Foreign Minister in the government of his successor, Centrist Wilhelm Marx, and continued to hold that position through numerous governments until his death.
As Foreign Secretary, Stresemann had numerous achievements, particularly the signing of the Locarno Pact with Britain, France, Italy, and Belgium in 1925, the entry of Germany into the League of Nations in 1926, and the Dawes Plan of 1924, The Rapallo Treaty in 1926 and Young Plan of 1929, which reduced Germany's reparations payments under the Treaty of Versailles. During his period in the foreign ministry, Stresemann came more and more to accept the Republic, which he had at first rejected. He also befriended Aristide Briand.
Stresemann has generally been considered one of the most important leaders of Germany during the Weimar Republic. He was one of the first to talk about European economic integration. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Aristide Briand and Austen Chamberlain for 1925 and 1926. Gustav Stresemann died of a massive heart attack on October 3, 1929 at the age of 51.