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Rothschild (rŏthˈchīld, Ger. rōtˈshĭlt), prominent family of European bankers. The first important member was Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1743–1812), son of a money changer in the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt, Germany. His first names are also spelled as Meyer and Anselm. It was he who laid the foundation of the family fortune by his skillful operations as financial agent for the landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (later Elector William I). His five sons were Amschel Mayer Rothschild (1773–1855), who remained at Frankfurt with his father; Salomon Rothschild (1774–1855), who established the Vienna branch of the family; Nathan Meyer Rothschild, who founded the London branch; Karl Rothschild (1788–1855), who established the Naples branch (discontinued in 1863 after the unification of Italy); and James Rothschild (1792–1868), who settled in Paris.

After the Napoleonic Wars the house of Rothschild attained increasing power, and in 1822 all five brothers were created barons by Emperor Francis I of Austria. Because of their position as creditor of many European governments, the Rothschilds were undoubtedly one of the world's chief financial powers in the 19th cent. Their banks played a major role in financing railroads and mines that made France an industrial power and the English branch financed the British government's acquisition of the Suez Canal. The improvement in state financing late in the century greatly reduced their influence.

The Frankfurt branch closed in 1901 when the last male heir of Amschel Mayer Rothschild died. The rise of the Nazis forced the family to give up its Viennese branch in 1938 and some family members fled to the United States during World War II. The Rothschilds remained involved in international investment banking, especially in London and Paris. The French government nationalized the Paris bank in 1981, but six years later David de Rothschild established a new company. He became chairman of both the British and French branches in 2003 when they were consolidated into a single holding company. Rothschild family members have traditionally maintained their Jewish faith and have consistently engaged in large-scale philanthropic activities for both Jews and non-Jews. Many later and contemporary members of the family distinguished themselves as patrons of the arts, sportsmen, writers, and doctors.


See the memoirs of G. de Rothschild (1985); F. Morton, The Rothschilds (1962); E. C. Corti, Rise of the House of Rothschild (1928, repr. 1972) and Reign of the House of Rothschild (1928); V. S. Cowles, The Rothschilds (1973); D. Wilson, Rothschild (1988); H. Lottman, The French Rothschilds (1995); N. Ferguson, The House of Rothschild (2 vol., 1999).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a dynasty of financial magnates founded by the banker Mayer Amschel Rothschild of Frankfurt am Main. The family grew wealthy in the 18th century from trade in military supplies and from financial speculation. The Rothschilds reached the height of their power and influence in the first half of the 19th century, when the five sons of Mayer Amschel headed banks in Paris, London, Vienna, Frankfurt am Main, and Naples. Many European states were financially dependent on the Rothschild banks. Later, the Rothschild banks in Vienna, Frankfurt, and Naples were closed, and the Paris and London banks conducted their financial affairs independently.

The contemporary international financial empire of the Rothschilds is divided into a British and a French branch. The British branch, Rothschild-Samuel-Oppenheimer, is one of Great Britain’s monopolistic groups. Its sphere of influence includes large South African companies engaged in mining gold, diamonds, uranium, and other minerals (the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa and De Beers Consolidated Mines). In the 1960’s the group also entered the petroleum industry and nonferrous metallurgy. The organizational center of the British branch of the Rothschilds is N. M. Rothschild and Sons, a London bank that maintains close ties with many British insurance companies and banks. The Rothschild bank ceased to be a family financial institution in 1970, when, for the first time, representatives of foreign financial capital were admitted to the board. However, the Rothschild family has the controlling interest in the bank. At the beginning of the 1970’s the British bank controlled by the Rothschilds was very active. With American and Japanese banks it established a consortium for joint financial operations. In 1970–71 the bank played an appreciable role as the intermediary in the merger and absorption of a number of English corporations.

The organizational nucleus of the French branch, the strongest branch of the international Rothschild empire, consists of two interlocking financial institutions—the Banque de Rothschild, with total assets of US $400 million (1972), and the holding company Société d’Investissements du Nord, with total assets of US $105 million (1972). In 1972, 68 percent of the shares of the Banque de Rothschild were owned by the holding company, and the remaining shares were the personal property of Baron Guy de Rothschild and members of his family. Moreover, 30 percent of the holding company’s stock belonged to the bank and the Rothschild family. The holding company was created in the 1960’s by pooling family-owned securities in more than 100 different industrial companies operating in France and abroad. Although the Banque de Rothschild was turned into a bank of deposit in conformity with new French legislation, it performs diverse financial operations associated with leasing and real estate.

In the early 1960’s the French Rothschilds became more active in the mining industry. In the early 1970’s the Rothschilds owned 51 percent of the shares of Le Nickel, a company that mines nickel and other raw materials in New Caledonia. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the British and French branches of the Rothschilds frequently worked together in banking, investment, and mining, with the aim of successfully counteracting competitors and furthering their own expansion.

The Rothschilds are influential in French and British politics. Many high officials in the Rothschild group have become prominent politicians and statesmen. For example, G. Pompidou was for a long time the general director of the Banque de Rothschild. The Rothschilds, along with other financial groups, constitute the backbone of the British and French financial oligarchies, and they maintain a strong position in the economy of these countries.


Angliiskie monopolii [collection of articles]. Moscow, 1955. Page 15. (Translated from English.)
Kapitalisticheskie i razvivaiushchiesia strany. Moscow, 1973. Page 222.
Frantsiia. [Moscow, 1973.] Page 292.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a powerful family of European Jewish bankers, prominent members of which were
1. Lionel Nathan, Baron de Rothschild. 1809--79, British banker and first Jewish member of Parliament
2. his grandfather Meyer Amschel . 1743--1812, German financier and founder of the Rothschild banking firm
3. his son, Nathan Meyer, Baron de Rothschild. 1777--1836, British banker, born in Germany
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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