Quest for wealth is as old as humanity. Mankind’s search for wealth spans through generations. The largest chunk of time in every human existence have been spent in search of wealth and power and the good things it brings. While some are finding riches, others are not, but few had been able to amass wealth in great quantity such as the world has never seen before or thereafter. They make the current days richest people look like apprentices.
Who are these all time richest people and how much wealth did they acquired? This list includes every generation of people and races ever know in history till date. Who among them is the wealthiest of all time?
This list is the most complete and most accurate list of the richest people in history you can find on the internet.
Note: There are some wealthy Figures omitted in this list – either because we couldn’t get the reasonable estimate of their wealth or they simply did not fit in. The likes of The Rothschild family said to worth hundreds of billions or more but could not be included because this list is about individuals, not family. Muammar Gaddafi who is believed to worth over two hundred billion USD, Marcus Licinius Crassus, etc. Those who made the list truly deserves their place.
10. Alan Rufus – Worth = $178.65 billion [Approximately] (c. 1040 – 1093).
Alan Rufus is a close companion of William the Conqueror. Like William the Conqueror, Alan Rufus died a very rich man; in adjusting his fortune to modern equivalents by accounting for inflation, he was worth approximately $178.65 billion, coming in part from the 250,000 acres (“the Land of Count Alan”) conceded to him in Yorkshire in 1071 by the King for his cooperation in the invasion. This figure puts him as one of the richest people in human history.
Alan Rufus was a major employer of skilled labour to build abbeys, castles and manor-houses across Norman England, some of which remain in evidence today. As an example, the original manor house of Costessey Hall in Norfolk still stands on the north side of the river Tud in Costessey Park. Beneath Richmond Castle, Alan founded the beautiful town of Richmond, North Yorkshire.
9. Cornelius Vanderbilt – Worth = $185 Billion (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877)
Cornelius Vanderbilt also known by the sobriquet Commodore, was an American industrialist and philanthropist who built his wealth in shipping and railroads. He was also the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and one of the richest Americans in history. He provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University, which is named in his honor.
Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island, New York and began working on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor as a boy, quitting school at the age of 11. At the age of 16 Vanderbilt decided to start his own ferry service. According to one version of events, he borrowed $100 from his mother to purchase a periauger (a shallow draft, two masted sailing vessel).
However, according to the version of the first published account of his life, published in the magazine Scientific American in 1853, the periauger belonged to his father and he received half the profit. He began his business by ferrying freight and passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan.
8. Henry Ford – Worth = $199 Billion (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947)
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Ford did not invent the automobile, but he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford to buy. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with “Fordism“: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers.
Ford’s philosophy was one of economic independence for the United States. His River Rouge Plant became the world’s largest industrial complex, pursuing vertical integration to such an extent that it could produce its own steel. Ford’s goal was to produce a vehicle from scratch without reliance on foreign trade. He believed in the global expansion of his company. He believed that international trade and cooperation led to international peace, and he used the assembly line process and production of the Model T to demonstrate it.
7. Jakob Fugger of the Lily – Worth = $221 Billion [Approximately] (6 Mar 1459 – 30 Dec 1525)
Known as Jakob Fugger the Rich or sometimes Jakob II. Fugger was a major merchant, mining entrepreneur and banker of Europe between ca. 1495-1525. He was a descendant of the Fugger merchant family located in the Free Imperial City of Augsburg, where he was also born and later also
The foundation of the family’s wealth was created mainly by the textile trade with Italy. The company grew rapidly after the brothers Ulrich, Georg and Jakob began banking transactions with the House of Habsburg as well as the Roman Curia, and at the same time began mining operations in Tyrol, and from 1493 on the extraction of silver and copper in the present Czech Republic and Slovakia. As of 1525 they also had the right to mine quicksilver and cinnabar in Almadén. Elevated through marriage to Grand Burgher of Augsburg (German Großbürger zu Augsburg). Within a few decades he expanded the family firm to a business operating in all of Europe. He began his education with the age of 14 in Venice, which also remained his main residence until 1487. At the same time he was a cleric and held several prebendaries, even though he never lived in a monastery.
At his death on 30 December 1525 Jakob Fugger bequeathed to his nephew Anton Fugger company assets totaling 2,032,652 guilders. He is considered to be one of the richest persons of all time, and today he is well known as Jakob Fugger ‘the Rich’. He is among the most well known Germans and arguably the most famous citizen of Augsburg. In 1967 a bust of him was placed in the Walhalla, a “hall of fame” near Regensburg that honors laudable and distinguished Germans.
6. Mir Osman Ali Khan – Worth = $230 billion (6 April 1886 – 24 February 1967)
He was the last Nizam (or ruler) of the Princely State of Hyderabad and of Berar. He ruled Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948, until it was merged into India. He was styled His Exalted Highness The Nizam of Hyderabad.
During his days as Nizam, he was reputed to be the richest man in the world, having a fortune estimated at US$2 billion in the early 1940s ($32.8 billion in today dollars) or 2 per cent of the US economy then. At that time the treasury of the newly independent Union government of India reported annual revenue of US$1 billion only.
He was featured on the cover of TIME magazine, portrayed as such. The Nizam is widely believed to have remained as the richest man in South Asia until his death in 1967, though his fortunes fell to US$1 billion by then and became a subject of multiple legal disputes between bitterly fighting rival descendants. His wealth include a vast private treasury. Its coffers were said to contain £100m in gold and silver bullion, and a further £400m of jewels.
Among them was the fabulously rare Jacob diamond, valued at some £100m (2008), and used by the Nizam as a paperweight. There were pearls, too – enough to pave Piccadilly – hundreds of race horses, thousands of uniforms, tonnes of royal regalia and Rolls-Royces by the dozen. Calculating his modern day worth by accounting for inflation, the Nizam was worth $236 billion, making him one of the wealthiest people to have ever lived.
5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia – Worth = $300 Billion (18 May [O.S.] 6 May] 1868 – 17 July 1918)
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, born in 1868 as Nikolai Alexandrovich into the House of Romanov, was the emperor of the Russian Empire from 1894 until the February Revolution of 1917. Around age 48 (in 1916) his wealth was valued at up to US$881 million, which equals US$290 billion in today’s money.
He is seen as the wealthiest monarch and head of state in history and further as the wealthiest saint as the Russian Orthodox Church declared him, his wife and his children martyrs after being murdered in 1918 by the Bolsheviks.
Under his rule, Russia was humiliatingly defeated in the Russo-Japanese War, which saw the almost total annihilation of the Russian Baltic Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. The Anglo-Russian Entente, designed to counter German attempts to gain influence in the Middle East, ended the Great Game between Russia and the United Kingdom. As head of state, Nicholas approved the Russian mobilization of August 1914, which marked the beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War I, a war in which 3.3 million Russians were killed
At the time of his death, his net worth was $900 million, which is the inflation adjusted equivalent to $300 billion in 2012 dollars, thus making him one of the richest monarchs in human history
4. Andrew Carnegie – Worth = $310 Billion (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919)
Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1848. Carnegie started as a telegrapher and by the 1860s had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. He built further wealth as a bond salesman raising money for American enterprise in Europe. He built Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million, creating the U.S. Steel Corporation.
Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with special emphasis on local libraries, world peace, education and scientific research.
With the fortune he made from business, he built Carnegie Hall, and founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Hero Fund, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, among others. His life has often been referred to as a true “rags to riches” story.
3. Mansa Musa I – Worth = $400 Billion (c. 1280 – c. 1337)
Musa made his pilgrimage in 1324, his procession reported to include 60,000 men, 12,000 slaves who each carried 4-lb. gold bars, heralds dressed in silks who bore gold staffs, organized horses and handled bags. Musa provided all necessities for the procession, feeding the entire companyof men and animals.
Also in the train were 80 camels, which varying
reports claim carried between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust each. He gave away the gold to the poor he met along his route. Musa not only gave to the cities he passed on the way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medina, but also traded gold for souvenirs. Furthermore, it has been recorded that he built a mosque each and every Friday.
Musa’s journey was documented by several eyewitnesses along his route, who were in awe of his wealth and extensive procession, and records exist in a variety of sources, including journals, oral accounts and histories. Musa is known to have visited with the Mamluk sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad of Egypt in July 1324.
Musa’s generous actions,however, inadvertently devastated the economy of the region. In the cities of Cairo, Medina and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal for the next decade. Prices on goods and wares super inflated in an attempt to adjust to the newfound wealth that was spreading throughout local populations.
To rectify the gold market, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo, at high interest. This is the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean
2. John D. Rockefeller – Worth = $663.4 billion (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937)
He was the founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy. In 1870, he founded Standard Oil Company and aggressively ran it until he
officially retired in 1897.
Rockefeller founded Standard Oil as an Ohio partnership with his brother William along with Henry Flagler, Jabez Bostwick, chemist Samuel Andrews, and a silent partner, Stephen V. Harkness. As kerosene and gasoline grew in importance, Rockefeller’s wealth soared and he became the world’s richest man and the first American worth more than a billion dollars. Adjusting for inflation, he is often regarded as the richest person in history.
Rockefeller spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement. His fortune was mainly used to create the modern systematic approach of targeted philanthropy. He was able to do this through the creation of foundations that had a major effect on medicine, education and scientific research. His foundations pioneered the development of medical research and were instrumental in the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever.
1. King Solomon – Worth = $2.1 Trillion [Worth $1.056 trillion in 1992] (Reign 970 to 931 BCE)
The Bible states that King Solomon held a fortune that dwarfed any and every person who lived before him,
making him the wealthiest person in the world.
King Solomon reigned for 40 years. Each year, Solomon
received 25 tons of gold.
1 ton of Gold is worth $64.3 Million dollars at $2000/oz Therefore, 25 tone times 40 years of his reign amounts to $64,300,800,000
This did not include income derived from business, trade, nor the
annual tribute paid to him by all of the kings and governors of Arabia. King Solomon’s throne was coated in pure gold and inlaid with ivory. It
had 6 stairs, 12 lion statues (1 on either side of each step) and a
solid gold foot stool. Two larger lion statues stood on either side of the throne.
All of the goblets and household articles in Solomon’s palace were pure gold. King Solomon was reportedly so rich, that during the years of his reign over Jerusalem, his immense wealth caused silver to be considered of little value and as common as rocks. As such, nothing in Solomon’s palace was made of silver.
Painting by:Edward John Poynter (1836 – 1919)
Image Credits: Piero della Francesca, 1375 Catalan Atlas, Albrecht Dürer 1518, 13th century illumination
The same devaluation was noted of cedar wood,a lumber which at the time, was considered to be of great monetary value and cultural significance by many societies at the time. Some historians claim that the Tawil family from Azech in Tur Abddin (modern
day Idil in Şırnak Province, Turkey) used to be the private goldsmiths of Solomon.