University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Global Economic History Seminar > ‘The Rothschild tobacco business in the nineteenth century: the interplay between finance and commodities’

‘The Rothschild tobacco business in the nineteenth century: the interplay between finance and commodities’

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After making a fortune during the French Wars of 1793 to 1815, the Rothschilds might have limited their activities to pure finance, but they continued to trade in physical products, most extensively in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Tobacco, both leaf and manufactures, loomed large and long in these Rothschild dealings. One attraction of tobacco was the monopolisation of imports in many countries, allowing the Rothschilds to bid for contracts. In contrast, tobacco exports were gradually liberalised in the course of the nineteenth century, obliging the Rothschilds to purchase leaf and manufactures in increasingly competitive environments. The salience of tobacco was further related to a focus on lending to governments, with revenues from state tobacco monopolies as collateral for loans, and repayments sometimes made in kind. The Rothschilds then became involved in schemes to manage tobacco monopolies on behalf of governments, beginning with the Spanish monopoly in the Philippines.

This talk is part of the Global Economic History Seminar series.

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