The House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets 1798-1848

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9780670857685: The House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets 1798-1848

The first historian with access to the long-lost Rothschild archive, bestselling author Niall Ferguson offers a myth-breaking in-depth portrait fo one of the most fascinating and powerful families in Europe. Hidden for nearly fifty yers in the KGB's special archive, the uncovered records cast new light on the banking family's rise to preeminence. With the help of Hebrew scholar Mordecai Zucker, The House of Rothschild also reflects the first major translation of important and revealing intra-family correspondence in the Judendeutch dialect. In a vast undertaking, Ferguson has synthesized material from over 20 different archives and 20,000 letters, as well as other historical sources, and produced an exceptional--and readable history. Ferguson follows the founders' five sons in their rise to power as pioneers of modern business communication, creators of the international bond market, and the financial force behind many political events of the time. A family saga as well, Ferguson reveals the true nature of the family's relations with one another and with most of the important politicians and monarchs of the time, as well as their profound connection to the Jewish community. A major book, The House of Rothschild is the definitive account of one of the most important firms--and one of the most exceptional families--in modern history.

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Review:

Founded in the late 18th century by expatriate German Jews, the London-based House of Rothschild was within decades the largest banking enterprise in the world. Its principals controlled a vast portion of the industrial world's wealth--more so, Oxford historian Niall Ferguson writes, than any family has since--and as a result enjoyed tremendous political influence in the major capitals of Europe, counting as allies such important figures as Metternich and Wellington. That influence would provoke countless anti-Semitic tracts fulminating against Jewish usury and against the power of "Eastern potentates" in the empires of England and France. Although the Rothschilds were well aware of their power and not reluctant to use it, they operated fairly, Ferguson notes. For example, whereas lending rates in the textile industry, in which the Rothschilds got their start, were often 20 percent, the fledgling house charged 5 to 9 percent. Through shrewd, complex negotiations they helped promote peace and the beginnings of economic union throughout Europe.

Ferguson's sprawling history covers much ground and involves a cast of hundreds of players. At the outset he notes that his book was commissioned by the modern descendants of the House of Rothschild; even so, he approaches his task with careful balance and a critical eye, pointing out the Rothschilds' failings as well as successes. The result is a fine, solid contribution to economic history, one that, unlike so many books in the field, is eminently readable. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, and Colossus, he also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world. Since 2003 he has written and presented three highly successful television documentary series for British television: Empire, American Colossus, and, The War of the World. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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