On January 10, India’s richest person Mukesh Ambani was ranked 20th in the list of wealthiest people in the Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Ambani with his $41.2 billion wealth ranking at No. 20 is of course, no mean feat. But picture this– there was an Indian emperor, long before our time, who actually features among 10 richest persons of all time.Money magazine in 2015 compiled a list of richest people of all time by taking an individual’s wealth and comparing it to the country’s GDP, apart from adjusting for inflation and speaking to hundreds of economists and historians. The study revealed that Emperor Akbar, the third of the Mughal rulers, had 25 per cent of the global GDP in his possession.
In the run up to the budget as the government is focusing on expanding the tax base, finance minister Arun Jaitley can take a few lessons from Akbar as the research describes the Mughal dynasty as one of the most effective empires of all time at extracting wealth from the population. For all those who may sense tyranny, the research also speculates that India’s GDP per capita under Akbar was comparable to Elizabethan England.
While it may be a controversial affair to compare the riches across different eras, the research does throw up some really interesting findings. For example, the crown of the ‘richest of all time’ goes to King Mansa Musa, whose wealth the Money magazine puts as ‘too rich to describe’. Musa was the ruler of the ancient city of Timbuktu (in modern day Mali), which used to be the world’s largest producer of gold.
Talking of ancient times, the Roman empire of course can’t be ignored. Its founder Augustus Caesar was the second richest man of all time. Augustus, whose wealth has been projected at $4.6 trillion is said to have “personally owned all of Egypt”. Caesar is also the only ancient ruler (he was in fact born in the BC or Before Christ era) in a list dominated by medieval kings. Apart from Akbar and Musa, the research lists contemporaries like Emperor Shenzong, Genghis Khan and Alan the Red.
However, there are a few entries from modern history like Joseph Stalin and John D Rockefeller. But just as no list of batting records is incomplete without Sir Don Bradman, this hall of fame of rich folks mentions Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the 9th richest since the beginning of time. That though might come in for contention as the Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index mentioned above has revealed that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is worth more than Gates ever was.
For more updates and latest news, start following newspaper Cuttings.