Nathan May­er Roth­schild and the Cre­ation of a Dynasty: The Crit­i­cal Years 1806 – 1816

Her­bert H. Kaplan
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
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.

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