Emile and Isaac Pereire

Bankers, Socialists and Sephardic Jews in nineteenth-century France

Author: Helen M. Davies

The brothers Emile and Isaac Pereire were among the descendants of the Spanish conversos and Portuguese refugees from auto da fe. They were to become pivotal and sensational figures in nineteenth-century France, their lives and careers a lens through which to re-examine its history. In their relationship to Judaism, in their Saint-Simonianism, their socialism, their partnership, their business practices, their political allegiance, they have been subjects of criticism, comment and analysis by historians and others for over 150 years. This book uses the lives of these individuals to re-examine the history of France in the nineteenth century. It first deals with the 'making' of their grandsons, two Jewish boys born after the Revolution into the close-knit Sephardic community of Bordeaux. Then, it shows how, through Saint-Simonianism, Emile and Isaac Pereire found their vocation as railway entrepreneurs. The economic and financial reforms advocated by Saint-Simon and his followers came to be realised with the coming of rail to France. The book deals with the stage of railway development in France which followed the inauguration of the Paris-St-Germain (PSG) line, the hesitant administrative arrangements, and the insufficiency of investment capital to finance railway development. Next, it addresses the roles and methods of Emile and Isaac Pereire and of their family in what they treated as 'a family business'.

Abstract only
Log-in for full text


‘Helen M. Davies provides a very useful, state-of-the-art and nuanced portrait of the lives of Emile and Isaac Pereire, brothers and prominent bankers in a changing nineteenth-century France on her path to industrialisation … Davies provides a vivid portrait of their habits and strategies to emerge as eminent financiers and entrepreneurs convinced that economic competence and abilities were to be coupled with a strong vision of the future.'
Giandomenico Piluso, University of Siena
Business History, vol. 59, issue 7

‘Helen M. Davies's book constitutes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the development of France during the longue durée. Those seeking insight into the economic history of the July Monarchy and Second Empire--as well as aspects of Sephardic family and private life--will learn much from the lives of Emile and Isaac Pereire.'
Jeffrey Haus, Kalamazoo College
H-France Review Vol. 16, No. 111
July 2016

‘The topics it covers cannot help but be of interest to those who study economic and financial development, the Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurship and the history of economic thought...Helen Davies' monograph is the first biography of the brothers Pereire in English and it makes extensive use of archival sources...Her book serves as an interesting complement to more standard economic histories of nineteenth-century France.
Esther Redmount, Department of Economics, Colorado College
EH. Net
January 2016

    • Full book download (PDF with hyperlinks)
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1395 325 26
Full Text Views 664 70 6
PDF Downloads 1121 370 19