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Sources for business history

Sources for art history: Catalogue of the pictures of Alfred de Rothschild 1901

Sources for yachting history: Plans for Nathaniel von Rothschild's yacht Veglia 1905

Sources for natural history: Walter 2nd Lord Rothschild and his zebra carriage: c.1910

Sources for global financial history: Map of lines of the Brazil Railway Company: c.1920

Sources for business history: index cards to bank files

Sources for social history: Rothschild Hospital Paris: 1920s

Sources for business history: detail of a Rothschild bond coupon

Sources for architectural history: Halton House: 1890s

Sources for the history of travel: Lionel de Rothschild's tours of Spain: 1909

Sources for local history: Tring Park: c.1900

Sources for Royal history: shooting party with Edward Prince of Wales: 1893

Sources for political history: Lionel de Rothschild: first Jewish MP: 1858

Sources for sporting history: St Amant winner of the Derby: 1904

Sources for local history: gardeners at Aston Clinton: 1899

Sources for Rothschild family history: Lionel de Rothschild's yacht Rhodora: 1927

Sources for London history: entrance to New Court: 1965

Sources for design history: plans for Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce: 1930

Sources for business history: Rothschild gold bars produced by the Royal Mint Refinery: 1930s

Sources for business history: letters of August Belmont Rothschild Agent in New York: 1860s

Nathan Mayer Rothschild's bill-case, 1831

The collections of The Rothschild Archive London contain over two million pieces of paper, volumes, files, photographs, artefacts and art works. Archivist's Choice is a series a short articles each highlighting a treasure from the Archive collection, or celebrating an anniversary or special event. Browse through our library of Archivist's Choice articles to discover some of the fascinating stories behind our collections.

In March 1809, the lease for property in New Court, St Swithin's Lane in the City of London was assigned to Nathan Mayer Rothschild. From these beginnings, Nathan's London house, N M Rothschild, dealt in bullion and foreign exchange and issued British and foreign government loans. Over the past 200 years New Court has been re-built, but St Swithin’s Lane remains home to the London bank.

Nathan was born in Frankfurt in the Judengasse 16 September 1777. He died in that city on 28 July 1836. In the intervening 59 years, Nathan Mayer Rothschild - the name he never changed despite the honours offered and declined - led his brothers to the pinnacle of the financial world. Nathan almost burst out of Frankfurt, the first of his brothers to found a branch of the family firm, to settle in England in 1798, initially as a textile merchant in Manchester and subsequently as a London bill broker. Nathan was a popular 'Manchester man', an indulgent father, a respectful husband, an admired (if occasionally feared) brother. Building on this foundation and wedding it to the Rothschild network, Nathan was credited by his brothers with securing for them the best opportunities to achieve their position in the world of finance. He was a larger than life figure on the London exchanges, giving himself totally to his business, permitting no half measures. His brusqueness and off-handedness were legendary, and his tactics were examined and re-examined time and time again.

His marriage in 1806 to Hannah, daughter of Levi Barent Cohen, gave him a position in society and a range of business contacts which might have taken him years to achieve alone. Moving to New Court in 1809, Nathan initially raised his family there too, but by 1816 had found a villa at Stamford Hill to provide more space and better air. In 1825, the family's town home was established at 107, Piccadilly and in 1835, Nathan acquired Gunnersbury Park in west London.

Bills of exchange

The stock in trade of the London merchant was Bills of Exchange. Once he arrived in London, dealing in bills of exchange became a central element in Nathan’s business. The bills he had issued in Manchester had gained a sound reputation for their reliability, providing a solid basis for his financial activities in London. Bills were heavily traded among merchants and banker’s on the Royal Exchange at a discount and it was this activity in which Nathan developed an unrivalled skill. Preserved in the Rothschild Archive is Nathan’s bill-case, inscribed 'N M Rothschild, 2 New Court, St Swithin's Lane', which he carried 'on Exchange', together with examples of bills traded. Although government loan contracting soon eclipsed this side of his business, it had served to lay the foundation for his reputation.

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Nathan Mayer Rothschild's bill-case 1831

Nathan Mayer Rothschild's bill-case 1831

‘The Shadow of a Great Man’ by Edouart. Caricature of Nathan Mayer Rothschild published in the month following his death and showing him standing at his favourite pillar at the Exchange.

‘The Shadow of a Great Man’ by Edouart. Caricature of Nathan Mayer Rothschild published in the month following his death and showing him standing at his favourite pillar at the Exchange.