The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger by Greg SteinmetzThe life and times of the wealthiest man who ever lived--Jacob Fugger, the Renaissance banker who revolutionized the art of making money and established the radical idea of pursuing wealth for its own sake.
Jacob Fugger lived in Germany at the turn of the sixteenth century, the grandson of a peasant. By the time he died, his fortune amounted to nearly two percent of European GDP. Not even John D. Rockefeller had that kind of wealth.
Most people become rich by spotting opportunities, pioneering new technologies, or besting opponents in negotiations. Fugger did all that, but he had an extra quality that allowed him to rise even higher: nerve. In an era when kings had unlimited power, Fugger had the nerve to stare down heads of state and ask them to pay back their loans--with interest. It was this coolness and self-assurance, along with his inexhaustible ambition, that made him not only the richest man ever, but a force of history as well. Before Fugger came along it was illegal under church law to charge interest on loans, but he got the Pope to change that. He also helped trigger the Reformation and likely funded Magellans circumnavigation of the globe. His creation of a news service, which gave him an information edge over his rivals and customers, earned Fugger a footnote in the history of journalism. And he took Austrias Habsburg family from being second-tier sovereigns to rulers of the first empire where the sun never set.
The ultimate untold story, The Richest Man Who Ever Lived is more than a tale about the richest and most influential businessman of all time. It is a story about palace intrigue, knights in battle, family tragedy and triumph, and a violent clash between the 1 percent and everybody else. To understand our financial system and how we got it, it pays to understand Jacob Fugger.
List of wealthiest historical figures
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The title of richest person on Earth seems to ping-pong between tech titans every few years. But the wealthiest of them all is believed to be Mansa Musa, the ruler of the Mali Empire. One of these items is a reproduction of the Catalan Atlas, produced on the island of Majorca around , which includes pages depicting the vast trade routes near and through the Sahara. At the center of it is an illustration of Mansa Musa. The 14th-century king, as Thad Morgan details for History. Despite his vast wealth, the wider world did not know much about Musa until the devout Muslim pilgrimaged to Mecca in When Musa passed through Egypt, so much gold flowed, according to Morgan that it actually devalued the metal and led to a currency crisis that took Egypt 12 years to dig itself out of.
Who are the richest people in history? While putting a dollar value on ancient kings might be difficult, we think we have a pretty good list of the top contenders for the richest people ever. The richest American ever is widely considered to be John D.
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Who Was the Richest Person in America’s History?
However, throughout history, there have been richer men. Yet sadly, no richer women. Taking into account inflation and the value of wealth held, Jeff Bezos actually sits much further down in the richest people ever list, with the likes of Genghis Khan and John D.
Some people are just unfathomably rich. Surely in our modern world, where technology enables the creation and consolidation of truly incomprehensible wealth, we are living among the richest individuals in history. Estimating wealth in bygone eras is difficult because what it means to be wealthy vary widely from epoch to epoch. How do you value the land holdings of Persian emperors? In economies where there was no such thing as true currency, taxes were levied in barley, and literacy might as well have been rocket science, slapping dollar amounts on things is an exercise in wild speculation. But that doesn't make it any less fun.
The list of the wealthiest historical figures gathers published estimates as to the inflation-adjusted net-worth and fortunes of the wealthiest historical figures in comparison. Due to problems arising from different definitions of wealth, ways of measuring it, various economic models throughout history, as well as multiple other reasons—this article discusses the wealthiest people in the following separate historical periods: Antiquity , Middle Ages and modern period. Accordingly—because of the previously mentioned difficulties—it is not possible to determine the single richest person in all of history. For the modern period , wealth can be measured more or less objectively via inflation adjustment , e. For the medieval and ancient history, comparison of wealth becomes more problematic, on one hand due to the inaccuracy or unreliability of records, on the other due to the difficulty of comparing a pre-industrial economy to a modern one, and especially in the presence of absolute monarchy , where an entire kingdom or empire is considered the ruler's personal property. The latter factor is also an issue in the early modern to modern period, e. Excluding monarchs and autocrats , the wealthiest private individual in the history of capitalism is variously identified as Jakob Fugger died , of the early modern Fugger family of merchants and bankers,  and early 20th-century American entrepreneurs Andrew Carnegie died  and John D.
The 14th-century King of Mali's fortune was so big that his generous gifts could cripple economies. Rudolph Butch Ware, associate professor of history at the University of California, told BBC : "Contemporary accounts of Musa's wealth are so breathless that it's almost impossible to get a sense of just how wealthy and powerful he truly was. Musa was born in into a ruler family, where his brother, Mansa Abu-Bakr, ruled the empire until When Abu-Bakr failed to return from an ocean expedition, Musa inherited the throne of the gold-rich kingdom. Mali accounted for almost half of the Old World's gold, and all of it belonged to Mansa Musa. Musa was a devoted Muslim who decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, passing through the Sahara Desert and Egypt.