The Rothschild family, the most influential banking dynasty of modern Europe, began with Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1743–1812) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and expanded across Europe under his five sons: Amschel Mayer Rothschild (1773–1855) in Frankfurt, Germany; Salomon Rothschild (1774–1855) in Vienna, Austria; Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836) in London, England; Karl Rothschild (1788–1855) in Naples, Italy; and James Rothschild (1792–1868) in Paris, France. As the most powerful banker in Europe, Nathan smuggled gold through Napoléon's continental blockade to fund Wellington's decisive Waterloo campaign in 1815, propped up the Bank of England during the liquidity crisis of 1834, and reinvented the European bond market. The other brothers worked with the governments of France, Austria, and Belgium to establish much of the continental railway network. Nathan's son, Lionel Nathan Rothschild (1808–1879), was the first Jewish Member of Parliament. The family played an instrumental role in late-nineteenth-century British imperial expansion by financing the Suez Canal Company and the South African diamond trade. After World War II the Rothschilds extended into North America, most prominently through the Brinco resource and hydroelectric development scheme in Newfoundland. In the 1980s the French government nationalized the Paris bank branch, and the British government depended on the London branch to privatize several public corporations.
SEE ALSO Banking; Egypt; Empire, British; Empire, French; Ethnic Groups, Jews; France;Religion.
Ferguson, Niall. The House of Rothschild, Vols. 1 and 2. New York: Viking, 1998.
Wilson, Derek. Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power. London: André Deutsch, 1988.