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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

Rothschild family philanthropy

Brought up in the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt, Nathan and his brothers were imbued with a strong sense of the tradition of Zedaka, which places expectations on members of the community to work for social justice by offering material support for those in need. As the family's wealth and influence grew, so did their commitment to this principle, along with their ability to apply it in more ambitious ways.

Zedaka or Tzedaka

While the word is used interchangeably for charity, 'zedaka' or 'tzedakah' is seen as a form of social justice provided by the donor as well as those who utilise the support to do their work and those who allow the support into their lives. As is the case with justice, this social responsibility cannot be done to someone, rather, it must be done with someone. So much more than a financial transaction, philanthropy in the spirit of zedakah builds trusting relationships and recognizes contributions of time, effort, and insight.

Early support by the Rothschild family for Jewish causes

In England, the almost military skills which Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) had used to transfer huge sums of money to Wellington's troops and Britain's allies during the campaign against Napoleon were put to the use of the Jewish community.  In addition to offering cash support to the synagogues in London, Nathan initiated a series of discussions which led eventually to the formation of the United Synagogue, thus streamlining the charitable work of the smaller constituent synagogues.  Nathan's children recognised their obligations just as keenly. His eldest son, Lionel, became the first Jewish Member of Parliament after an 11-year battle, paving the way for the removal of the final civil disabilities affecting the Jewish community.  As the children began to buy country estates, the areas around their mansions were transformed by planned improvements to housing for artisans, the implementation of social facilities such as health care provision, and an assurance that estate workers could rely on regular employment.

A broad commitment to welfare

The entire family preferred to become wholeheartedly involved in their favourite philanthropic interests, rather than simply making random payments to worthy causes.  In Frankfurt, Nathan's youngest child Louise and her seven daughters were responsible for many of the family's 30 charitable foundations in the city, including a dental clinic, a free public library, a swimming bath, old people's homes, orphanages, funds to pay school fees, soup kitchens and hospitals. Vienna perhaps had the most astonishing variety of foundations established by the family: alongside the more usual hospitals, orphanages and educational foundations were a municipal theatre and a foundation for destitute photographers, one member of the family being a particular enthusiast for this art form.

Education and support for young people is an enduring aspect of Rothschild family philanthropy. Members of the Rothschild family supported the Jews’ Free School in London’s East End school over several generations. In London and Paris, social housing was a shared interest, resulting in the formation of the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Limited (London) and the Rothschild Foundation (Paris) both of which constructed housing to an exceptionally advanced standard for the time. Perhaps the most radical programme of Rothschild philanthropy was staged beyond the cities where the family established banking houses.  Israel owes many of its early economic successes to the work of Edmond de Rothschild, who founded numerous colonies for Jewish settlers.  

Rothschild philanthropy today

Many members of the Rothschild family have established philanthropic trusts with a variety of aims, and members of the family continue to be involved with institutions founded by their forebears. 

Read more about the range of charitable endeavours supported by the family in the nineteenth century » or browse the links to the left to read more about the historical philanthropic activities of the Rothschild family. 

Rothschild Hospital Berck Plage, France

Rothschild Hospital Berck Plage, France

Maternity Ward Rothschild Hospital Paris, 1927

Maternity Ward Rothschild Hospital Paris, 1927