Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history: catalogues of bank files

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

March 2015: Suez Canal loan, 1876

Treasure of the Month: The collections of The Rothschild Archive London contain over two million pieces of paper, volumes, files, photographs, artefacts and art works. Each month the archivists will highlight a particular treasure from the collections.

Receipt for payment of the first instalment of the Suez Canal loan, 9th March 1876

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) was the eldest son and main business heir of Nathan Mayer Rothschild. Under his direction, business grew, and Lionel is remembered in business for his assistance to the British Government in 1875, helping his friend, Disraeli, secure the necessary sum to procure the Khedive of Egypt's share in the Suez Canal.

The building of the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal Company (Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez) came into being on 15 December 1858,and over the next 11 years the canal was built, and although the British recognised the canal as an important trade route, they objected to the use of forced Egyptian labour to build it, and perceived the French project as a threat to their geopolitical and financial interests.

The purchase of Suez Canal shares by the British Government

Initially international opinion was sceptical and Suez Canal Company shares did not sell well overseas. Britain, the United States, Austria and Russia did not buy any shares, although all French shares were quickly sold in France. The canal opened to shipping on 17 November 1869, and had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade, playing an important role in increasing European penetration and colonization of Africa.

External debts forced Said Pasha's successor, Isma'il Pasha, to put up his country's shares for sale. In 1875, the London banking house of N M Rothschild & Sons advanced the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, acting for the British Government, the vast sum of £4,000,000 to purchase Suez Canal shares. Disraeli was a close personal friend of Lionel de Rothschild, and according to legend, this was transacted on a gentleman’s agreement, with no documentation, a technically unsecured loan for a sum of over £550 million today. The funds were repaid within five months; however, Disraeli was accused by William Gladstone of undermining Britain's constitutional system, due to his lack of reference or consent from Parliament when purchasing the shares with funding from the Rothschilds. France still remained the majority shareholder in the canal.

Treasury, Whitehall S.W

9th March 1876

Gentlemen

I am commanded by the Lord’s Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury to acquaint you that the Bank of England has been authorized to pay to you on the 10th instant, from the account of the Exchequer, the following amount, viz :-

£1,500,000 being the first instalment of the amount payable by Her Majesty’s Government, for the purchase of the Shares of the British Government in the Suez Canal, which formerly belonged to the Khedive of Egypt.

I am Gentlemen,

Your obedient servant,

R.R.W Lingen

Read more about the Suez Canal purchase here ». The monograph 'You Have It, Madam': the purchase, in 1875, of Suez Canal shares by Disraeli and Baron Lionel de Rothschild by Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (London: privately printed, 1980) also gives more information about this event.

RAL reference: RAL 000/573/10  

Receipt from the Treasury for the repayment of the first instalment of the 'Suez' loan 9th March 1876

Receipt from the Treasury for the repayment of the first instalment of the 'Suez' loan 9th March 1876

Opening of the Suez Canal in 1869

Opening of the Suez Canal in 1869