By mid-nineteenth century, Meyer Amschel Rothschild's five sons controlled one of the most massive fortunes in Europe. The Rothschild name had become synonymous with the enormous political and social power that often accompanied that wealth, the amassing of which is remarkable considering the painfully modest beginnings of its founder. Born in the unimaginable squalor of Frankfurt's Jewish ghetto (where he chose to spend his entire life), Meyer Rothschild established a small trading and banking business that - despite political, legal, and social constrictions segregating Jews from the outside world - evolved into an empire that included the financial centers of the world. "Founder" is the story of Meyer Rothschild's times, of the condition of the Jews, of the city-states before they were overrun by Napoleon's troops. It is about the threshold of the modern era, when the world of aristocrats and gentlemen was profoundly influenced by a shrewd, dedicated, loyal father and his family.
Amos Elon's rich and evocative depiction of life in mid-eighteenth-century Europe provides a vivid background against which we come to understand and marvel at the strength and perseverance driving this obviously extraordinary, humble man. "Elon...has written a terrifically readable biography that does more than illuminate the formerly shadowy figure who served princes in what is now Germany. Through the prism of Mayer Rothschild's life, Mr. Elon gives us a fascinating glimpse into how Europe - and by implication, the New World - made the journey from mercantilism to modern entrepreneurship...Mr. Elon's feat is in chronicling all this with clarity and drama. Founder skillfully weaves history into this story of human endeavour to create a memorable narrative of Mayer Rothschild's time." (Deborah Stead, "New York Times Book Review").