When Edmund de Rothschild visited Japan in 1964, the Asahi Evening News described him as ‘the world’s wealthiest man, the banker who lords it over the world’s financial circles, the man who manipulates the world’s gold at will, the head of the Rothschild family of England which is still looked up to in mystical awe by the people of the world’. This is the kind of hyperbole that the author of this enjoyable, informative and disarmingly self-effacing memoir has had to endure all his life.
To be born a Rothschild is, one might think, an enviable predicament. The old nineteenth-century joke has two poor Viennese Jews watching a hugely ornate pram being pushed down the street. ‘So young,’ says one to the other, ‘and already a Rothschild.’ Yet being born a Rothschild in 1916 had its – relative – disadvantages.
It was precisely in the years of Edmund de Rothschild’s youth that the firm which had dominated the international bond market throughout the nineteenth century experienced a dramatic decline. The economic impact of the First World War, the subsequent instability of international finance, the steep rise in taxation of the