Anyone interested in finance, European history or the rise of one spectacularly successful Jewish family will find the first volume of this history of the Rothschilds spellbinding. Equipped with unprecedented access to pre-1915 Rothschild archives, Oxford historian Ferguson begins the family history with Frankfurt merchant Mayer Amschel, but the real story starts with the arrival of the most capable of his sons, Nathan Mayer, in England 200 years ago. Each of Mayer's five sons was located in different cities--Paris, London, Vienna, Naples and Frankfurt. Combined with a mandated unity that kept the brothers remarkably close while excluding daughters, in-laws and strangers, this geographic dispersal gave the family's financial firm an unbeatable edge, despite Mayer's sons being of unequal competence. N.M. Rothschild is the one Ferguson chooses as his protagonist (his great-great-grandson suggested the project to the author). It was largely because of this Finanzbonaparte that from 1815 on, the Rothschilds were everywhere part of Europe--they dominated the international bond market; bought and sold commodities such as cotton, tobacco, sugar, copper and mercury; and influenced Metternich, Wellington, Queen Victoria, Bismarck, Gladstone and Disraeli. Using his access to the 13,000 entries in the Rothschild files, Ferguson debunks myths and carefully reconstructs the truth. Not only has he done a brilliant job of depicting this far-flung family but he also manages to offer an amazing insider's look at the financial, political and military aspects of early 19th-century European life. His exhaustive study surpasses anything about the Rothschilds to date. (Nov.) FYI: Ferguson's second volume on the Rothschilds is due out next year.
Reviewed on: 11/02/1998 Release date: 11/01/1998 Genre: Nonfiction