My PhD

The English Rothschild Family in the Vale of Aylesbury: their houses, collections and collecting activity, 1830-1900

I completed my DPhil in cultural history at King's College London in 2013. This was an AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award. The art history and cultural history project focussed on the study of the country house and country house collections (including paintings, furniture and objets d'art). Specifically I examined the homes and collections of the Rothschild family in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

If you would like to discuss my PhD research with me please do get in touch.

The abstract of my thesis is below - or alternatively you can read on the King's College website here.


This study focuses on the English branch of the Rothschild family from the 1830s to 1900, specifically the family’s early activity in the Vale of Aylesbury. The acquisition and renovation or building by the Rothschild family of seven country houses is explored, in particular the reasons why the family chose to build such residences and to settle in the Vale of Aylesbury. 

The context of the construction of these houses, their functions, and the family’s aims in building them is considered. The architectural styles chosen for the mansions are surveyed. The interiors of the properties, their style and functions, are also investigated. The collections of fine and decorative art objects amassed by the Rothschild family and kept in these properties are examined. The motivations behind creating certain interior styles of decoration and establishing and maintaining the collections are considered. Furthermore the existence of the phrase le goût Rothschild as expressed by these residences is discussed. 

This survey reveals that even though the Rothschild family were not unique in the styles and objects they admired or acquired for their houses, the manner of presentation they employed had certain noteworthy characteristics. These were aspects which enabled Rothschild family members to project a certain image of themselves through their country properties.

This thesis concludes that the decision by the Rothschild family to acquire country mansions in the Vale of Aylesbury and to present them in particular way was motivated by the family members’ specific circumstances and personal preferences. It also considers that in their sheer number, size and architectural style, as well as interior presentation, the mansions played a significant and premeditated role in maintaining and bolstering the rising social position of the Rothschilds as a nouveau-riche family in the nineteenth century.