The House of Rothschild, Vol 1 | Niall Ferguson

Summary of: The House of Rothschild, Vol 1: Money’s Prophets, 1798-1848
By: Niall Ferguson


Step into the captivating world of the Rothschild family, one of the nineteenth century’s most powerful and influential dynasties. ‘The House of Rothschild, Vol 1: Money’s Prophets, 1798-1848’ by Niall Ferguson reveals the remarkable journey of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who overcame anti-Semitic oppression to build a successful banking empire. Delve into the family’s exceptional ability to adapt and thrive as their vast wealth granted them notable social status and political alliances. This summary will guide you through the critical events, key figures, and the unique strategies employed by the Rothschilds, exposing the secrets behind their continued success.

The Story of Mayer Amschel Rothschild

Mayer Amschel Rothschild was the founder of the famous Rothschild banking family. He started his journey as an antique dealer and used his profits to extend credit to his customers and suppliers, ultimately establishing himself in the world of banking. Despite the rampant anti-Semitism in Frankfurt, Mayer Amschel managed to thrive and become one of the richest Jews in the city. His business turned over so much cash that bags of money would often lie around the office. Frankfurt was a center of commerce and banking, which gave Mayer Amschel the perfect environment to establish and grow his business.

William IX and Rothschild: How a Relationship Paved the Way

Mayer Amschel Rothschild’s relationship with William IX, the Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Kassel, resulted in the management of William’s English investments by Rothschild. It provided Nathan Rothschild with an opportunity to establish a successful banking business in England. While there is Rothschild myth that William fled to Rothschild during Napoleon’s reign, the actuality was that he only entrusted his English investments to him. After Mayer Amschel’s death, his sons strictly adhered to his last testament of maintaining fraternal unity, which proved profitable for the banking business.

Rothschilds’ Financial Backing

By financing the Napoleonic Wars and exploiting exchange rates, the Rothschilds became the wealthiest banking family in Europe. Nathan Rothschild, the leader among the brothers, established permanent bases in major cities, generating the most profit. The diverse intergovernmental payments produced up to eight percent commissions with significant fluctuations in exchange rates. Although Nathan’s success reduced the other brothers to agents, the partnership did not become a dictatorship.

Rothschilds and Their “Friendships”

The Rothschilds maintained close relationships with European politicians by extending credit, giving presents, and providing insider information. These relationships proved profitable but also gave rise to myths of their extensive influence over European politics, which were mostly fueled by economic rivalry and anti-Jewish sentiment.

The Rothschilds, a prominent family of bankers, were known for their practice of extending credit to influential figures in order to foster “friendships” and maintain close contact with European politicians. Their “friendship” with Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich was the most prominent example. In addition to advancing him money, Salomon, the Vienna-based brother, also provided him with inside information received from his brothers in London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Naples. In return, Metternich kept Salomon informed about Austrian political machinations that would affect the Rothschilds financially. The Rothschilds also gave presents, such as jewelled caskets, to those with whom they wished to forge an alliance.

These close relationships with European politicians were immensely profitable for the Rothschilds. However, they also gave rise to myths that they wielded extensive, clandestine influence over European politics. Although the Rothschilds’ involvement in major financial transactions made them increasingly familiar to the public during the 1820s, the ensuing publicity was mostly negative. Much of the myth-making and hostility endured by the Rothschilds was not based on actual facts, but rather on economic rivalry and anti-Jewish sentiment.

In summary, the Rothschilds maintained close relationships with European politicians through credit extension, insider information, and gift-giving. These relationships proved immensely profitable but also led to myths of their extensive influence over European politics, which were mostly fueled by economic rivalry and anti-Jewish sentiment.

The Rothschilds and Their Philanthropy

The Rothschilds, despite their privileged social status, used their influence for good by advocating for Jewish emancipation and contributing to various charities.

Despite belonging to a historically disadvantaged class, the Rothschilds’ wealth and influence provided them with a privileged social status. They owned prestigious residences and even acquired noble status in 1817. However, the Rothschilds never lost sight of the fact that the Jewish community still faced discrimination in the form of discriminatory laws and regulations. They used their social status as a force for good by advocating for Jewish emancipation and urging their friends in politics to support equal civil rights for Jews.

The Rothschilds also engaged in philanthropy, donating money to build a new hospital and contributing to various charities for the poor and sick. Nathan Rothschild, in particular, was interested in helping the disadvantaged. Despite rumors that the Rothschilds were indifferent to the plight of their “poorer co-religionists,” their involvement in philanthropy shows otherwise.

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