Richest People in History

A list of the richest people throughout history, from Tutankhamun and the Rothschilds to Bill Gates.

Tutankhamun (1332–1323 BC) The Egyptian Pharaoh owned all of Egypt’s wealth. His elaborate tomb displayed an array of riches, including his coffin being lined with sheet gold. The gold weighed 110.4 kg

Marcus Licinius Crassus (115BC – 53 BC) Crassus was a Roman general and politician who created a fortune through amassing a huge portfolio of real estate. He gained property through confiscating lands of people he convicted and also buying burning properties at knock-down prices. He also gained wealth through trading in slaves and minerals. He became famous for his insatiable desire for money.

Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) One of the most powerful popes, Innocent III claimed authority over all European kings and raised a fortune through selling indulgences and raising money for the Crusades. Ironically, despite his great wealth, he preached frugality and gave permission for St Francis of Assisi to form an order of monks devoted to poverty.

Genghis Khan (1162 – 1227) From humble beginnings, Genghis Khan conquered Mongolia and China and then created an Empire stretching into Central Europe. His wealth could only be measured in land acquired. Genghis Khan wasn’t so concerned with material accumulation, living in a tent. His main desire was to conquer and humiliate his enemies.

Kublai Khan (1215-1294) Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan, inheriting the Mongol Empire. He built the city of Shangdu (Xanadu) which became famous for lavish hospitality and ostentatious displays of wealth.

Mansa Musa (c. 1280 – c. 1337) Mansa Musa was the ruler of the African country Mali. At the time, the country produced 50% of the world’s gold and salt. These rich natural resources enabled him to become the richest person of all time. One study suggests, adjusted for inflation he amassed a fortune of $400 billion.

House of Medici (14th – 15th Century) The picture shows Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (1444–1478), who set up the Medici bank. They dominated Italian politics throughout the middle ages, using their wealth to influence the Papacy and government. Their wealth helped to sponsor much art of the High Renaissance.

Jakob Fugger (1459 – 1525) Fugger was a German trader, merchant and banker. He founded his wealth on trade with Italy. He then formed a powerful banking network, which made him the richest person in Europe. He also gained a monopoly on the production of copper.

Akbar (1542 – 1605)  During Akbar’s reign, the Moghul empire tripled in size and wealth. He built his capital Agra, the remarkable red fort by the Jamuna to dazzle his inhabitants. He was also a noted benefactor of the arts, literature and culture. The Moghul riches included the Kohinoor diamond.

Tsar Nicholas II (1868 – 1918) As supreme ruler of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II’s personal wealth was estimated at an inflation-adjusted $300 billion. His great fortune masked an impoverished country, exhausted by its participation in the First World War. The inequality of wealth in Russian society was a factor behind the Russian revolution.

Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919) Born in Scotland to poor parents, Carnegie moved to America where he became very wealthy through dominating the US steel industry. After selling his steel company in 1901, he devoted the rest of his life to giving away his wealth to projects such as libraries, world peace and education. By his death, he had given away $4.8 billion (2010 terms)

John D. Rockefeller (1839 – 1937) Rockefeller became one of the richest persons in the world through his dominance of the oil and railroad industries. His wealth was created through a cut throat approach to business and his reliance on gaining monopoly power. His wealth was estimated at an inflation-adjusted $340 billion. Towards the end of his life, he turned philanthropist and gave a lot of his money away.

Bill Gates (1955 – )
Co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates became one of the world’s richest men. Forbes ranked him as the richest person in the world (as of 2013) despite giving $23 billion away to his charitable foundation.

George Solos (1930 – ) Soros is a Hungarian-American business magnate and investor. Between 1979 and 2011, Soros gave away over $8 billion to causes related to human rights, public health, and education. He also supports progressive liberal politics.

Nathan Rothschild (1777 – 1836) – A London based Jewish banker. Nathan Rothschild was the second generation of this family’s banking business. It was under Nathan that the family became the dominant force in European banking. He made a fortune through trading and selling bonds during the Napoleonic wars.

Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794 – 1877) Vanderbilt amassed his fortune through his dominance of railroads and shipping. He built and controlled many of the most significant railroads in America, such as the New York railroad and he built the Grand Central Terminal.

Samuel Walton (1918 – 1992) Walton made his fortune in retail. He began from humble beginnings – owning a small grocery store. But, he pioneered many successful elements of big supermarkets and from the early 1960s his Walmart supermarkets became very successful

John Pierpont “J. P.” Morgan (1837 – 1913) J.P.Morgan built a financial empire based on banking, and investment. He arranged the biggest mergers of his day. His son J.P. ‘Jack’ Morgan grew his father’s business and wealth through exploring new avenues of wealth creation. He used his wealth to supply the US government with gold during the 1895 crisis, and he averted the 1907 financial panic.

Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) American industrialist who founded Ford motor car company. His great success in using principles of mass production enabled him to produce motor cars cheaply, leading to record sales of Model T cars.

J. Paul Getty (1892-1976) An Anglo American oil magnate, Getty struck lucky with discovering oil at his first drill. This made him his first millions. Despite his great wealth he was a noted miser, and had a public payphone installed at his house for guests.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Richest People in History“, Oxford, UK, 11 Feb 2013.

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