November 9, 2006 cameron

The Rothschild Family and the Napoleonic Wars

On the last show I briefly mentioned that I had read about various banking families of Europe who profited from the Napoleonic Wars. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the Rothschild Family:

The basis for the Rothschild fortune was laid during the latter stages of the Napoleonic Wars. From 1813 to 1815, the Rothschild family was instrumental in the financing of the British war effort, handling the shipment of bullion to the Duke of Wellington’s army in Portugal and Spain, as well as arranging the payment of British financial subsidies to their Continental allies. Through the commissions earned on these transactions, the Rothschild fortune grew enormously.

In the early 19th century Rothschild set up a Europe-wide network of messengers and carrier pigeon stations, gathering information that could affect his investments. He soon garnered a reputation for being first with the news.

According to popular legend, when the Battle of Waterloo was being fought in June 1815, other speculators watched Rothschild’s stocks in an attempt to guess who would win. Shortly after the battle ended, and long before anyone else knew who was the victor, he began selling stocks. Everyone assumed this meant Napoleon had won and Europe was lost. Panic selling ensued. When prices crashed, Rothschild bought everything in sight and made a profit.

Comments (22)

  1. Chr is Williams

    G’day Cameron and David,

    I have recently joined the ranks listening to your podcast and I am enjoying them immensely. I am gradually working my way through the back episodes but fortunately the bus ride to work is a rather arduous hour long journey, so it hasn’t been hard catching up!

    Being in the legal profession I am very interested in the development of the law. Can you point me in the direction of a good book focussing on the Napoleonic Code?

    Thank you very much and keep up the brilliant work!

    Chris Williams

  2. Patrick

    Hey Guys,

    Now that you have a solid base of listeners, I’d like to hear from some of the Naopleonic nuts who listen in. Have you thought about doing a “talkback” episode? … I think it would add another dimension to the show and help you feel less lonely….

  3. Joe

    Hi Guys,

    Just to start, I’d first like to tell you how much I love the pocast. I was actually a little dubious of the conversational format when I first discovered the show, but now I can’t imagine the show being done any other way. The rapport that you guys have is fantastic and doesn’t take away at all from the information being conveyed. I have really learned a lot from the show, and I think my friends and family are getting a little sick and tired of my constantly promoting you guys to them. I recommend you to every person I know who is interested in this topic.

    Question. In the episode about the coronation, I was surprised to learn that many of the things I had thought about the event were actually myths. Particularly regarding the Pope’s foreknowledge that Napoleon would crown himself. My question is, what words did Napoleon speak, if any, at the moment he placed the crown on his head? I seem to remember being told that he said something along the lines of “I crown myself” or something like that.

  4. Thanks Joe, we really appreciate the feedback and the promotion! I’ll let Mr Markham answer your question about what he actually said, but I’ve always loved Rod Steiger’s performance in the film WATERLOO when Napoleon states:
    “I found the crown of France lying in the gutter and I picked it up with my sword!”

  5. J. David Markham


    I am glad to hear you like the show, and greatly appreciate your promotion of our effort. I also really like the conversational approach that we have taken.

    As to your question, to the best of my knowledge, Napoleon did not say anything at the moment he placed the crown on his head. I did a quick check of several detailed descriptions of the ceremony, and none of them mention any comment on his part. He swore an oath afterwards, of course, but as far as I know had nothing to say at that moment.

    Chris, sorry to delay my response. There are lots of biographies that deal with the development of the Code Napoleon, including both of mine. In 1983, the Legal Classics Library did a special edition of the entire code, and the flier that accompanied it provides much useful information. My wife, Barbara, is also an attorney, but I’ve never been able to convince her to do an article or a book on that topic.

    Best to one and all,


  6. J. David Markham

    Patrick, we could do some kind of a call-in show via Skype IM or some such method, if Cameron says it is technically possible. I don’t know if we can do a call-in show or not, but if we can, why not. Just recognize that we don’t have instant answers for every single question.


  7. I can’t really comment with authority on your associations between bankers and war. While there is absolutely a relationship, your claims really smack of conspiracy more than fact. I can suggest “The Rise and Fall of Great Empires” by Kennedy which does discuss a lot of the associations, including the fact that countries did, indeed, default on war loans, so it wasn’t a sure bet that financing war would lead to profits. It also discusses the advantages England had over France with a more liberal monetary policy.

  8. Nick

    Your very inaccurate paraphrasing of the wiki on the Rothschild’s is most poor, at least you provided the link to the wiki page so that people can hopefully read it for themselves. It reeks of the old greedy Jews and their nefarious ways making money, especially the bit about; “he began selling stocks. Everyone assumed this meant Napoleon had won and Europe was lost. Panic selling ensued. When prices crashed, Rothschild bought everything in sight and made a profit” None of that is true. He actually bought up government bonds (not everything in sight) which with peace now should rise, they did and he sold them a few years latter.

    • cameron

      “Greedy Jews” is in your head, Nick. I don’t care if he’s a Jew or a Christian or a Scotsman. The story is about how he played the market, not what his ethnicity was.

      • Pras

        There is a very active paid trolling effort online which is designed to denounce and noise up any discussion that is not in the favour of the general lobby (usually Israel from observation, but there are many others of course). Trying to make people sound anti-semetic or just distract from the important issues is a good way of keeping conversations clear. I just wanted to comment here because that previous post looks like either a paid troll or an angry Israeli who thinks everyone is out to get them. History and truth are true whatever race you’re from and just because the people in power in a country commit crime that doesn’t make everyone in the country guilty.

        I came across this page while exploring just how long the bankers have made big money from war. Are there any accurate historical information archives you’d suggest?

  9. Jeremiah

    So what are the true references facts. Did the Rothschilds minipulate the stock during the Napoleonic wars, second did this have anything to do with Hitler’s vehemently hating Jews?

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