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The House of Rothschild

Money’s Prophets 1798–1848

By Niall Ferguson
16-minute read
Audio available
The House of Rothschild: Money’s Prophets 1798–1848 by Niall Ferguson

The House of Rothschild (1998) offers a detailed, insider look into the famed Rothschild family’s multinational partnership. By examining the relationships and strategies that launched the Rothschilds to success, the book demystifies this historic family, making their meteoric rise to tremendous wealth and fame much easier to understand.

  • Anyone with an interest in European history
  • Anyone curious about the world of banking in the nineteenth century
  • Anyone fascinated by the enduring Rothschild myth

Niall Ferguson is an author, political commentator and fellow and tutor of modern history at Jesus College, University of Oxford. His previous works include Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation 1897-1927 and the best-selling book Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals.

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The House of Rothschild

Money’s Prophets 1798–1848

By Niall Ferguson
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
The House of Rothschild: Money’s Prophets 1798–1848 by Niall Ferguson
Synopsis

The House of Rothschild (1998) offers a detailed, insider look into the famed Rothschild family’s multinational partnership. By examining the relationships and strategies that launched the Rothschilds to success, the book demystifies this historic family, making their meteoric rise to tremendous wealth and fame much easier to understand.

Key idea 1 of 10

Mayer Amschel Rothschild established the Rothschild banking business in Frankfurt amid widespread anti-Jewish sentiment.

The Rothschild family was among the richest and most influential families of the nineteenth century. But how did they come to enjoy such a coveted position?

It all began with Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), father of the famous Rothschild brothers. However, as a Jew in Frankfurt, Mayer Amschel didn’t have the easiest start to his career.

During the eighteenth century, Jews in Frankfurt faced persistent, systematic discrimination and intensely anti-Jewish attitudes.

Virtually every aspect of the lives of Frankfurt Jews was affected by this anti-Semitism. Jews were confined to a ghetto, a single narrow street called the Judengasse (Jews’ Lane), with gates erected at either end. They were forbidden to live outside the Judengasse, and likewise forbidden to stay overnight anywhere else.

Jews were barred from entering major public gathering places like parks, inns, coffee houses and the town’s promenades. For Frankfurt Jews, a major portion of life was spent within the high walls and gates of the Judengasse.

Yet, amid Frankfurt’s anti-Jewish sentiment, Mayer Amschel Rothschild still managed to start a successful banking business.

Unlike most eighteenth-century German towns, Frankfurt was a center of commerce, which necessarily went hand in hand with banking.

Mayer Amschel’s journey into banking began after he’d established himself as Frankfurt’s leading antique dealer. With the capital he accumulated through buying and selling these goods, Mayer Amschel began extending credit to his growing network of suppliers and customers, thus firmly planting himself in the world of banking.

By 1800, he ranked among the richest Jews in Frankfurt, owing in no small part to his success in banking. In fact, his business was turning over so much cash that bags of money would often lie around the Rothschild office, filling the cupboards and piling up on the floor.

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