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Jacob Schiff and the Financing of Japan

Gower, A; (2016) Jacob Schiff and the Financing of Japan. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Jacob Henry Schiff (1847–1920), a German-born American Jewish banker, facilitated critical loans for Japan in the early twentieth century. Working on behalf of the firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., Schiff’s assertiveness in favour of Japan separated him from his fellow German Jewish financiers and the banking establishment generally. This analysis differs from the consensus that Schiff funded Japan largely out of enmity towards Russia. He had sought to work with Japan for over thirty years and this was as much a factor in his actions surrounding the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) as his concern to thwart Russian antisemitism. Schiff is understood here mainly through his personal approach to risk assessment, which contributed to his leadership in the Japanese investments. His diligence was commensurate with his standing as one of the world’s most influential bankers. His efforts to ensure the success of the enormous issues were detailed and effective. Schiff saw in the Japanese a hard-working nation with firm principles open to foreign ideas but also a country struggling to be accepted by the international community – and being bullied by Russia. Though here the business and sectarian aspects of his life converged, he remained resolute in ensuring that he did not sacrifice his reputation for political goals. His efforts proved successful, and Japan was on the road to becoming a world power. But Schiff would never again lend to Japan in any significant manner, or ever have so formidable an impact on international events. Antisemitic violence in Russia continued and Japan became an uncompromising colonial power. Perhaps historians have overlooked this episode because, in retrospect, Schiff’s intentions were so distant from the subsequent course of history. It also remains difficult to discuss Jews in finance, especially in war time, without raising the spectre of antisemitism and Jewish conspiracy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Jacob Schiff and the Financing of Japan
Event: UCL
Language: English
Keywords: Jacob Schiff
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1522336
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