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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Business Leaders