Rothschilds' 'delicate and difficult task': reputation, political instability, and the Brazilian rescue loans of the 1890s

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The London House of Rothschild depended on Brazil to maintain its reputation. This became a problem in the 1890s, when the Brazilian government almost defaulted on its sovereign debt after a change of regime had made politics unstable and economic policy unorthodox. This article shows how the relationship between the bank and the state developed to the point that Rothschilds was forced to rescue its client. Exposure enabled Brazil to implement policies designed to defend the regime at the expense of payment capacity without defaulting. The debt crisis ended only after the political situation stabilized toward the close of the century, when the bank pressured the government to tighten economic policy.

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