Top 7 Richest People in History

A couple of weeks ago, we published a post for the Top 7 Richest People in the World in 2010. The publication of this post made me curious about who would be the richest people in history, actualized by inflation. After some investigation, we came out with a list for the Top 7 Richest People in History. Our Top 7 list, based on scholarly estimates and adjusted for inflation, includes entrepreneurs, warriors, and robber barons. This list did not include monarchs, whose vast wealth is considered public.

Bill Gates is the only living men who crack the list, and that’s only counting their net worth at bubble peaks in 1999 and 2007.

You’ll notice much of the list come from England and America. Partly this happens because that’s where estimates were available. But it’s also true extreme private wealth occurred only several times in history, such as: The great lords of England, the Gilded Age, and today’s credit bubble.

1. John D. Rockefeller

Country: USA

Fortune: $336 billion

Years: 1839 – 1937

How he made his fortune: Standard Oil – an American oil producing, transporting, refining and marketing company

He founded Standard Oil in 1870, at the age of 31, and bought up most of the oil refineries in the United States, eventually controlling about 90% of the American oil business.

John D. Rockefeller built an oil refinery in Cleveland, Ohio, which would later become the Standard Oil Trust. He would go on to borrow heavily, reinvest profits, control costs and utilize waste. For years, he also bought out rivals, improved the efficiency of his operations, pressed for discounts on oil shipments, undercut his competition, made secret deals and raised investment pools.

All of this led to an American empire that consisted of 20,000 domestic wells; 4,000 miles of pipeline; 5,000 tank cars and over 100,000 employees. At its peak, Standard Oil Trust was refining over 90% of the world’s oil.

Known For: Revolutionizing the petroleum industry. Philanthropy: Giving away over $550 million to medicine, education and scientific research.

Fun Fact: Eventually, in 1911, the Supreme Court of the United States enforced the Sherman Antitrust Act and ordered that Standard Oil Company be broken into 34 new companies. Among many others, some of these companies are known today as ConocoPhillips, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Pennzoil. Ironically, the breakup of Standard Oil caused the companies’ combined net worth to rise fivefold, giving Rockefeller over $900 million.

Quote: “I would rather earn 1% off 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.”

2. Andrew Carnegie

Country: USA

Fortune: $309 billion

Years: 1835 – 1919

How he made his fortune: Carnegie Steel Company – steel producer, investments

Carnegie invested in the steel business when the market was booming, eventually ending up at the head of the U.S. Steel empire.

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland in a one room cottage. At the age of 13, he and his family moved to Pennsylvania in the United States, seeking a better life. Andrew’s first job as a bobbin boy earned him $1.20 per week, but by the age of 18, Carnegie was working his way up through the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. He developed a close relationship with the company’s president, J. Edgar Thompson, which allowed him to participate in inside trading. Carnegie began to slowly accumulate capital through his investments.

He then used this capital to start his own company, Carnegie Steel. Making use of his connections, Carnegie established businesses that supplied rails and bridges to railroads. Carnegie would go on to control the most extensive integrated iron and steel operation ever owned by any one person in the US.

In 1901, being 66 years old, Carnegie was ready for retirement. J.P. Morgan organized a trust and bought out Carnegie Steel Company along with several other major producers to form the United States Steel Corporation. Carnegie was paid $225,639,000 in the form of 5%, 50-year gold bonds.

Known For: A true “rags-to-riches” story. Philanthropy: At the time of Carnegie’s death in 1919, he had already given away over $350 million.

Fun Fact: The U.S. Steel buyout was (and still is) the largest industrial takeover in the history of the United States.

Quote: “He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave.”

3. William The Conqueror

Country: England

Peak fortune: $209 billion

Years: 1028 – 1087

How he made his fortune: Led the last successful foreign invasion of England in 1066, giving him the rights of lands in France, such as Normandy and Aquitaine. Although he became a monarch, we’re counting the spoils of war before he took the throne, based on what he gave out to his sons Odo and Robert.

Also known as William I of England (Guillaume 1er d’Angleterre) and William II of Normandy (Guillaume II de Normandie), was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death. Before his conquest of England, he was known as William the Bastard (Guillaume le Bâtard) because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

To press his claim to the English crown, William invaded England in 1066, leading an army of Normans, Bretons, Flemings, and Frenchmen (from Paris and Île-de-France) to victory over the English forces of King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, and suppressed subsequent English revolts in what has become known as the Norman Conquest. His reign, which brought Norman-French culture to England, had an impact on the subsequent course of England in the Middle Ages. The details of that impact and the extent of the changes have been debated by scholars for centuries. In addition to the obvious change of ruler, his reign also saw a programme of building and fortification, changes to the English language, a shift in the upper levels of society and the church, and adoption of some aspects of continental church reform.

As Duke of Normandy and King of England he divided his realm among his sons, but the lands were reunited under his son Henry, and his descendants acquired other territories through marriage or conquest and, at their height, these possessions would be known as the Angevin Empire.

They included many lands in France, such as Normandy and Aquitaine, but the question of jurisdiction over these territories would be the cause of much conflict and bitter rivalry between England and France, which took up much of the Middle Ages.

4. Cornelius Vanderbilt

Country: USA

Fortune: $185 billion

Years: 1821 – 1885

How he made his fortune: Inheritance, railroads

In 1862, he began to buy railroad lines. Although already 70 years old, his wealth mostly comes from this business of the 19th century. Prior to that, he was known as a cold-blooded steam-boat entrepreneur.

William Henry Vanderbilt started his business training at the early age of 19 as a bank clerk. He inherited $100 million from his father and continued to grow the family railroad empire. William was an active philanthropist, giving money to the YMCA, Metropolitan Opera, Colombia University and Vanderbilt University.

Known For: By the time of his death, only nine years after taking over the family business, Vanderbilt nearly doubled his inheritance.

Fun Fact: Vanderbilt’s father, Cornelius, constantly criticized him, calling him a “blockhead.”

Quote: “The care of $200 million is too great a load for any back or brain to bear. It is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.”

5. Alan Rufus

Country: England

Fortune: $149 billion

Years: 1040 – 1089

How he made his fortune: Land grants, investments in steel

A Norman who joined William The Conqueror in the invasion of Britain in the 11th century, Alan “The Red” had 250,000 acres of land from Yorkshire to London. He also owned Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire, which, for the time, was considered very comfortable.

Alan Rufus was a companion of his uncle, William the Conqueror, during the Norman conquest of England. He led a brutal suppression against rebels that killed 150,000 people. As a reward for his allegiance, Rufus received over 250,000 acres in land grants. He also made quite a fortune from his investments in steel.

Known For: Rufus’ fortune represented more than 7% of Britain’s net national income at the time.

Fun Fact: Rufus was accused of abducting Gunhilda, daughter of King Harold, and seducing her.

6. Bill Gates

Country: USA

Peak fortune: $136 billion

Years: 1955 –

How he made his fortune: Microsoft Corp.

Founded Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975. He held onto shares as Microsoft dominated the age of computers, peaking in personal wealth at the top of the Dot Com Bubble.

William Henry “Bill” Gates III, (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, philanthropist, and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009, excluding 2008, when he was ranked third. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8 percent of the common stock.

In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.

Bill Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect. In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

7.William de Warenne

Country: England

Peak fortune: $134 billion

Years: 1055 – 1088

How he made his fortune: William I de Warenne participated in the battle of Hastings and was rewarded with properties in Sussex, Northfolk and Yorkshire.

Originally from Normandy, he was a son of Rodulf de Warenne and a grandnephew of duchess Gunnor, wife of duke Richard I of Normandy. The de Warenne surname derives from the hamlet named Varenne located on the river Varenne, which flows through the territory William acquired in Upper Normandy in the region today called Bellencombre. An elder brother, Rodulf, inherited their father’s lands, suggesting William was a younger son.

As a young man, William played a prominent role in protecting the Norman realm of the future William the Conqueror’s from a major invasion by the King of France in February 1054 at the Battle of Mortemer. After this battle Roger de Mortemer forfeited most of his lands, and the duke gave them to William.

William was one of the nobles who advised duke William when the decision to invade England was being considered. He is said to have fought at Hastings, and afterwards received the Rape of Lewes in Sussex, and subsequently lands in twelve other shires. He built castles at Lewes (Sussex), Reigate (Surrey), Castle Acre (Norfolk) and Conisbrough in Yorkshire.By the time of the Domesday survey he was one of the wealthiest landholders in England with holdings in 12 counties.

He fought against rebels at the Isle of Ely in 1071 where he showed a special desire to hunt down Hereward the Wake who had murdered his brother the year before.

William was loyal to William II, and it was probably in early 1088 that he was created Earl of Surrey. He died shortly afterwards of wounds he received while helping suppress the rebellion of 1088.

He died in Lewes, Sussex, and was buried next to his wife at the Chapterhouse of Lewes Priory.

Source: Business Insider, Wikipedia, Instash


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    • Victor

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