Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) was the youngest son of James and Betty de Rothschild. He bore the Hebrew name Benjamin. He was born in Paris on 19 August 1845. Edmond joined the Paris Banking House in 1868 becoming a director of the Est railway company and other family concerns, and devoting himslef to art, culture and philanthropic interests. In 1877, he married Adelheid (1853-1935), the daughter of Wilhelm Carl Rothschild (1828-1901).
He made journeys to Bukharu to examine the potential of the oilfields of the area. In 1895, he visited Palestine for the first time, and his most outstanding achievements were involved in responding to the threats facing the Jewish people in Europe in the late 19th century by supporting massive land purchases and underwriting Jewish settlements in Palestine and Israel.
Until his death, 'The Benefactor', as he was known provided support for Jewish colonists, overseeing dozens of new colonies. Rishon le Zion (the First in Zion) was followed by others bearing the names of his parents. In 1923 PICA (the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association) was formed to oversee his affairs in Palestine. When Edmond died in Paris in 1934, he left a legacy which included the reclamation of nearly 500,000 dunams of land and almost 30 settlements. In 1954 his remains and those of Adelheid were brought to Ramat Hanadiv in Zikhron Ya'akov.
Papers in The Rothschild Archive London
The Rothschild Archive holds very little material on Edmond and his work in Palestine and Israel. The Archive holds a collection of files concerning personal affairs of members of the French family that include a few papers and volumes of accounts relating to the Jewish colonies and to their funding and development, as well as personal papers of Edmond relating to his birth and marriage. One file concerns the Jewish Colonization Association and includes papers relating to its Memorandum and Articles of Association, 1891.
These files were deposited with the Rothschild Archive Trust by Baron Eric de Rothschild. They were previously held in Bank vault of de Rothschild Frères at rue Lafitte, Paris, and then Château Lafite.
Papers at Waddesdon Manor
There is also a collection of archive material relating to the Palestinian Jewish Colonisation Association (PICA), held at Waddesdon Manor (the Buckinghamshire estate formerly owned by Edmond's son, and successor to his philanthropic work, James de Rothschild (1878-1957). To find out more about these papers, please contact Waddesdon Manor. firstname.lastname@example.org
Further secondary sources
Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel, Simon Schama (London: Collins, 1978)
Edmond de Rothschild: l'homme qui racheta la Terre sante, Elizabeth Antebi (Monaco: Editions du Rocher, 2003)
Rothschild and early Jewish colonization, Dr Ran Aronsohn (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)
Two older books which may be of interest are:
Baron Edmond de Rothschild: The Story of a Practical Idealist, David Druck, (New York, 1928)
Edmond de Rothschild: Palestine Pioneer, Isaac Naiditch, (Zionist Organization of America, Washington, 1945)