Born in Barcelona in 1930, Pujol was responsible for the reconstruction of the Generalitat following the return of its president in exile, and his long period in office saw the spread of Catalan as a language of instruction, the birth of Catalan-language TV, and of Catalan security forces. Educated at Barcelona's German school, Pujol studied medicine although he never practised it. Instead, he became involved in business and in the underground promotion of Catalan culture and language, a dangerous proposition during Franco's dictatorship. Arrested in 1960 following the "Palau Incident" (signing of the banned Catalan anthem to the national flag) he was arrested, tortured, and tried by a military court, spending two and a half years in prison and one in forced internal exile. Once released, he continued his work in both the cultural and the banking and business fronts.
From an early age, Pujol became strongly interested in social cohesion, military affairs, and foreign policy. He travelled to Southern Spain to see for himself the social and economic conditions that were pushing so many people to emigrate to Catalonia, and retained a life-long interest in promoting social cohesion and Catalonia's traditional stress on building a shared future with people from all walks of life. In the military arena, he became a reserve officer and served in the Spanish lower chamber's military affairs committee after gaining a parliamentary seat in 1977. Although Catalonia was not responsible for defence while he was in office, Pujol stressed the exercise of security powers, gaining early control over prisons and later getting the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police force) to deploy all over the country, replacing the Spanish security forces in almost all areas of security work. A fluent German, English, French, and Italian speaker, Pujol travelled across Europe at an early age and retained a life-long interest in foreign policy. Among other countries, he has strong connections to Israel, which he has visited on many occasions, and Japan.
In 1974, Pujol founded CDC (Democratic Convergence of Catalonia), which would later reach an agreement with Christian-Democrat party UDC, giving rise to the coalition CiU. In 1980 Pujol won the first election to the Catalan Parliament following the return from exile of Prime Minister Tarradellas, becoming the head of the Generalitat and gaining successive re-election in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1995, and 1999. On 23 February 1981 he defiantly remained in his office and made a public broadcast while the fate of a military coup hanged in the balance. Pujol left office and retired from active politics in 2003.