The quest for wealth has been as old as humanity itself as mankind’s search for wealth spans through generations of millions of years. The largest chunk of time in every human existence has been spent in search of wealth, power and the good things it brings. While some have found riches becoming the richest people of our time, others are merely aching through life. Additionally, many had been able to amass wealth in great quantity such as the world has never seen before and probably will ever see again.
It can be challenging to estimate the wealth of someone who was born in the 1400s, or someone who owned a kingdom. The further we go back in time, the harder it is to put an accurate or fair figure on how relatively rich an individual was as, well, times were much different back then. Wealth was based on gold, land, salt and power – and not all academics agree on the valuations. But using the opinions of several different experts, a pretty clear list can be compiled.
Here are the top 10 richest people in history.
1. Emperor Shenzong, Emperor of the Song dynasty in China
Net Worth: $30 trillion
Emperor Shenzong of Song, personal name Zhao Xu, was the sixth emperor of the Song dynasty in China. Shenzong reigned from 1067 to 1085 during the ‘Peaceful Prosperity’ and ‘Primary Abundance’ eras when he controlled around 30% of the world’s GDP. Adept at collecting taxes, the emperor’s administration wasn’t all take, take, take however. Its famous new policies helped improve the lives of the poor, are seen as a forerunner of the modern welfare state.
2. Akbar I, Emperor of India’s Mughal dynasty
Net Worth: $21 trillion
Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, popularly known as Akbar the Great, and also as Akbar I, was the third Mughal emperor, who reigned from 1556 to 1605. Renowned for his lavish lifestyle and patronage of the arts, he ruled over much of the Indian subcontinent, known as the Mughal Empire. He controlled around 25% of the world’s GDP at the time.
3. Augustus Caesar, Emperor of the Roman Empire
Net Worth: $4.6 trillion
Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who became the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. He boasted a personal fortune equivalent to 20% of the entire empire’s economy. At one point Augustus even owned Egypt.
4. Mansa Musa, King of the Mali Empire and Timbuktu
Net Worth: $415 billion
Musa I, or Mansa Musa, was the tenth Mansa of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state. He has been described as the wealthiest individual of the Middle Ages. 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. He had half of the world’s supply of gold at his disposal, which was traded with merchants from as far away as Venice, Genoa and Egypt, as during Musa’s reign, Mali was the largest producer of gold in the world. Musa has been considered one of the richest people in history.
5. John D. Rockefeller, American business magnate
Net Worth: $367 billion
John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person in modern history. John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil company in 1870 and ended up controlling around 90% of the US oil business.
6. Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist
Net Worth: $337 billion
Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, and philanthropist. Carnegie led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and became one of the richest Americans in history. A full-on philanthropist, Carnegie gave away 90% of his fortune to various charities and educational establishments during the last years of his life.
7. Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia
Net Worth: $300 billion
Nicholas II or Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov was the last Emperor of All Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. During his reign he had full access to the nation’s coffers, making him one of the richest monarchs in history.
8. Jakob Fugger, German merchant
Net Worth: $277 billion
Jakob Fugger of the Lily, also known as Jakob Fugger the Rich or sometimes Jakob II, was a major German merchant, mining entrepreneur, and banker. He was a descendant of the Fugger merchant family. Within a few decades he expanded the family firm to a business operating in all of Europe. Fugger is held to be one of the wealthiest individuals in modern history. His enormous wealth enabled him to influence the politics of the time, funding the rise of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, as well as bankrolling the Spanish King Charles V.
9. Mir Osman Ali Khan, Indian royal
Net Worth: $230 billion
Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqi, Asaf Jah VII was the last Nizam (ruler) of the Princely State of Hyderabad, the largest princely state in British India. He ascended the throne on 11 August 1911, at the age of 25 and ruled the Kingdom of Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948, until it was annexed by India. He was one of the wealthiest people of all time. For a good part of the 20th century, he was known as the richest man in the world with an estimated fortune equivalent to 2% of the US economy.
10. William The Conqueror, King of England
Net Worth: $228 billion
William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. He seized lands and plundered treasures from Sussex to Yorkshire. He spent his lavish riches on everything from tapestries to castles, including the iconic White Tower at the Tower of London.