Nathan Mayer Rothschild, scion of the famous Frankfurt-am-Main banking family, left the Jewish ghetto in the town of his birth and settled in England in 1797. He became a naturalized British citizen in 1804 and in the following year he opened the Manchester-based branch of the House of Rothschild.
Professor Kaplan focuses on the critical years of 1806 through 1816 in his thorough and groundbreaking study of the stellar rise of Nathan Mayer Rothschild who, by virtue of his support of the British government in opposing Napoleon I, succeeded in creating a financial empire that influenced the course of European history for over a century.
Kaplan makes use of extensive archival material to detail the specific transactions that paved the road to Nathan Mayer’s extraordinary success. Beginning with the financial aspects of his marriage to Hannah Cohen, daughter of a successful merchant, Kaplan weaves the personal, public and business life of his subject together. While the heavily documented and footnoted details might have become burdensome and overwhelming, Kaplan manages to sustain the reader’s interest with a quickpaced narrative style and a liberal dose of remarkable trivia about the dramatis personae of the Rothschild dynasty.
Several monographs on the Rothschilds have appeared over the years, the most recent and noteworthy being Nial Ferguson’s two volume work. However, Kaplan’s treatment of Nathan Mayer and his focus on the “critical years” is an important contribution to the study of this unique family and its place in modern history.
Stephen H. Garrin is a past managing editor of Jewish Book World and a past assistant to the director of the Jewish Book Council.