Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

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

Chinese Sycees, 1901 and 1903

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.

Rothschild and China

The first firm evidence of trading links between N M Rothschild & Sons and China dates from 1838, In the earliest surviving letters from Rothschilds' agents in Canton (now Guangzhou). Chinese silks feature considerably, alongside tin, tea, cochineal and quicksilver, as the stock in trade of an increasingly bustling corner of the globe. Following the Anglo-Chinese Treaties of 1842 and 1858, which ended the Opium Wars, N M Rothschild & Sons moved to expand the Chinese links. Much of the correspondence with their agents in Shanghai focused on silver, the medium of commercial payment in China.

Sycees (a type of silver bullion) took the form of ingots called ‘shoes’, so-called because they were supposed to resemble the Chinese female foot. They were used throughout China in varying weights and sizes. Each ingot was stamped with the name of the smelter, date of casting and an indication of the weight and fineness. Trading and shipping of specie and bullion had, from the first, been a central pillar of the business of N M Rothschild and the firm was quick to organise a substantial trade to China.

In one shipment alone in 1856, the Rothschild agent in Shanghai acknowledged receipt of Mexican dollars totalling £23,128 - though 140 dollar coins were found to have ‘escaped’ through a slit in the bag in which they were being transported.

These sycees were given to Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) as a gift, and displayed in the Bank.

RAL reference: RAL 000/1911

Chinese Sycee

Chinese Sycee

Chinese Sycee c.1903 labelled 'Superintendency of Hupeh 5th month of the 32nd year of Kuang Hsu official bank'

Chinese Sycee c.1903 labelled 'Superintendency of Hupeh 5th month of the 32nd year of Kuang Hsu official bank'