The list of the wealthiest historical figures gathers published estimates of the (inflation-adjusted) net-worth and fortunes of the wealthiest historical figures. 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 time 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.g. comparing the nominal GDP of the United States of the respective periods, and then converting it into contemporary United States dollars. 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.g. various economists nominate Joseph Stalin among The 10 Richest People of All Timefor his "complete control of a nation with 9.6% of global GDP".
Excluding monarchs and autocrats, the wealthiest private individuals in the history of capitalism are variously identified as Jakob Fugger (died 1525) who was of the early modern Fugger family of merchants and bankers,are prominent figures of India's Delhi and Bengal Sultanate and Mughal Empire, and early 20th-century American entrepreneurs Andrew Carnegie (died 1919) and John D. Rockefeller (died 1937). Frequently, one of these individuals is considered to be the richest person of all time.
While the Rothschild family rose to the status of the wealthiest family of bankers in the 19th century, their wealth was distributed among a number of family members, preventing them from appearing among the wealthiest individuals. The richest among the Rothschilds was the head of its English branch—Nathan Mayer Rothschild (d. 1836)—the richest person of his time.Bernstein and Swan in All the Money in the World (2008) mention the top four richest Americans ever—all tycoons of the Gilded Age—respectively: John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Henry Vanderbilt; Henry Ford was ranked only 12th.
The richest man in history
At an estimated value of $400 billion, Mansa Musa I of Mali is the richest person who ever lived. Born in 1280, Mansa Musa was ruler of the Malian empire, and acquired the most part of his wealth from the production and trade of salt and gold; more than half of the world's supply at the time in fact. He was a great man.At the time of Musa's ascension to the throne, Mali in large part consisted of the territory of the former Ghana Empire, which Mali had conquered. The Mali Empire consisted of land that is now part of Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania,Gambia and the modern state of Mali. During his reign, Musa held many titles, such as "Emir of Melle", "Lord of the Mines of Wangara", and "Conqueror of Ghanata".
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