Who Are the Richest People in History?


The chances are that we all think of the same names when we consider who have been the richest people in history? Rockefeller, Carnegie and King Solomon are a few of the names to spring to mind right away.

It pretty much impossible to accurately compare fortunes across different centuries and continents but it is good fun to at least give it a try.

John D Rockefeller

Most analysts agree that this chap was the richest person to ever walk the Earth. Rockefeller was the first person to ever reach the magical figure of $1 billion as a personal fortune. The Standard Oil Company was the generator of his astonishing wealth. He died back in 1937 aged 97 and his wealth at that time has been inflation adjusted as being worth up to maybe $600 billion in today’s money. His personal fortune was over 1.5% the annual GDP in the US at the time.

Mansa Musa

I had never heard of this person before today but since he is near the top of many site’s rich lists I decided to find out some information. He became the emperor of Mali in the early 14th century and lived an extravagant lifestyle. It is said that he travelled with an entourage of over 70,000 people, with 500 of them carrying golden staves in front of the emperor. In this luxurious procession were 80 camels, with each carrying up to 300 pound of gold dust. It is said that he gave away so much gold during a trip to Mecca (300,000 pounds) that the metal was devalued and the economy in the region seriously affected for a long time afterwards.  His wealth has been calculated as not far from Rockefeller’s, although it is impossible to say who was technically wealthier.

Andrew Carnegie

This Scottish immigrant founded a steel company in the US and eventually sold it for $492 million. By the time he died he is estimated to have only had about $30 million of this left, as he had given so many millions away to charities and to other good causes. In 21st century terms, at the height of his fortune he had maybe $200 to $300 billion. As with Mansa Musa, he was a fabulously rich person whom we can say used his money to benefit many others.

King Solomon

You know that King Solomon was pretty wealthy, right? He died in 931 BC and the bible tells us that his wealth was greater than anyone who ever lived and who will ever live. He received 25 tons of gold a year, got tributes from the kings in the region and made money from business and trade interests. Just about everything in his house was said to be made of solid gold. His massive throne was filled with solid gold animals and was said to follow him wherever he went.


This is another person I had never read about before today. He was an imperial bodyguard of the Qing Dynasty in China and his wealth has been calculated at $52 billion at today’s prices. His staggering list of possessions included 8000 acres of land, over 100 bank and pawnbroker branches, 3,000 rooms in his properties, over 7,000 outfits of the finest clothes and a veritable mountain of precious metals, gemstones, silk, porcelain and other valuable items.  Sadly, he is said to have misused his power through extortion and corruption on a massive scale. His corruptness was one of the main reasons for the fall of the Qing Dynasty and he narrowly escaped the terrifying punishment of death by a thousand cuts. Instead, he was ordered to commit suicide by a court.

What other fabulously rich people do you think should be on the list?

6 Responses to Who Are the Richest People in History?

  1. I love the history lesson! I find Rockefeller and Carnegie to be so fascinating, especially because they continue to play major roles in or lives today.

    • Robert Bell says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Michelle. Some of these people have had a huge effect on the modern world, although others seem to be pretty much forgotten about now

  2. Mark Ross says:

    I can’t think of anyone else because those numbers are pretty high if you’ll compare it to the richest men in the last decade or so.

  3. I love reading about rich people, both in present day and from the past. Mostly because I like to learn about how “the other half” spend their money.

    • Robert Bell says:

      There are some great stories around about rich people and how they have spent their money Tahnya. I love reading them too

  4. I can’t imagine having $1B, let alone $600B!

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