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The London house between the wars

The First World War marked a change of fortune and emphasis for the London house. By the end of hostilities in 1918, a new generation of Rothschilds found themselves at the helm of the London bank. Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild, died in 1915, and was briefly succeeded by his brother Alfred (1842-1918). Alfred was in turn succeeded by his nephew Charles Rothschild (1877-1923). While the bank benefited from his practical and systematic approach to the organisation of the firm, his real interests lay outside the financial sphere. Restrictive monetary policies immediately after the war confined the bank's foreign loan activities until 1922, and upon Charles’ unexpected death in 1923, the bank was led by Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882-1942). Lionel led the bank through the years of transition in the financial markets, when the demand for economic reconstruction in Europe resulted in a host of issues. The funding of French railway companies was followed by a series of loans to the governments of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and various German provinces. At the same time, the bank continued to raise substantial credit to support the economies of their longstanding clients, Brazil and Chile, and issued a further loan to Japan.

Towards the end of the 1920s, the bank began a steady transition towards advisory work and finance raising which increased the volume of Rothschilds' domestic business, which included issues for London Underground electric railways, for companies in the property business and brewing industry and for F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd. Worldwide economic depression in the 1930s presented the London partnership with more than their share of financial burdens when one of Austria's largest credit institutions, the Oesterreichischer Credit Anstalt für Handel und Gewerbe (established in the mid nineteenth century by the Viennese Rothschild bank) failed in 1931. The subsequent drain on Rothschild resources was considerable, but they rode out the storm and even managed to issue a handful of loans before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Anthony de Rothschild (1887-1961) became Senior Partner in 1942 when his brother Lionel died. Anthony took a special interest in the work of The Royal Mint Refinery, which had been diverted to making munitions. In the tumult of the Second World War, The French and Austrian family were scattered, and the once mighty Vienna house was dissolved. At home, the London bank became the centre of efforts to assist Jewish refugees.