Their success began with Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812). Born in the ghetto of Frankfurt-am-Main he developed a finance house and spread his empire by installing each of his five sons in European cities to conduct business. Mayer Amschel Rothschild successfully kept the fortune in the family by carefully arranged marriages between closely related family members. His sons were:
The Rothschilds were supporters of Zionism and Baron Edmond James de Rothschild was a patron of the first Zionist settlement in Palestine at Rishon-LeZion. In 1917 Lionel Walter Rothschild (2nd Lord Rothschild) was the addressee of the Balfour Declaration, which committed the British government to the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
As prominent Jews active in politics as well as business, the Rothschild family has been a target for anti-semitism throughout its history, and many family members were persecuted during World War Two.
The international banking business continues today, based around N. M. Rothschild and Sons in London and La Compagnie Financière Edmond de Rothschild in Paris. The Rothschild family is also renowned in the field of winemaking, owning the premier Bordeaux estates of Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
Some members of the family use the surname de Rothschild to acknowledge a grant of nobility by the emperor of Austria-Hungary.