Meet The True One Percent: Mansa Musa I

It appears that Bill Gates is a virtual proletariat businessman in compared to some. A website called Celebrity Net Worth calculated the wealth of well-known historical and contemporary rich guys and found that 14th century African king Mansa Musa I was the richest person in history.

Mansa Musa I had an estimated $400 billion fortune. In comparison, Gates weighs in with $136 billion. Fourteen of 25 are Americans. Here is the list of the adjusted incomes:

1. Mansa Musa I – $400 billion
2. The Rothschild family – $350 billion
3. John D. Rockefeller – $340 billion
4. Andrew Carnegie – $310 billion
5. Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov – $300 billion
6. Mir Osman Ali Khan – $230 billion
7. William The Conqueror – $229.5 billion
8. Muammar Qaddafi – $200 billion
9. Henry Ford – $199 billion
10. Cornelius Vanderbilt – $185 billion

Musa I lived between 1280 to c. 1337. He was the tenth Mansa or “King of Kings” over territory formerly belonging to the Ghana and Melle (Mali) empires.

Mansa Musa controls key shipping routes and showed great ambition. Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari quotes him as saying:

The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning the Atlantic). He wanted to reach that (end) and was determined to pursue his plan. So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, and many others full of gold, water and provisions sufficient for several years. He ordered the captain not to return until they had reached the other end of the ocean, or until he had exhausted the provisions and water. So they set out on their journey. They were absent for a long period, and, at last just one boat returned. When questioned the captain replied: ‘O Prince, we navigated for a long period, until we saw in the midst of the ocean a great river which flowing massively. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me, and they were drowned in the great whirlpool and never came out again. I sailed back to escape this current.’ But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and his men, and one thousand more for water and provisions. Then he conferred the regency on me for the term of his absence, and departed with his men, never to return nor to give a sign of life.
—Mansa Musa

The Romney campaign has immediately issued a press release that Mansa Musa “did build that.” However, the Obama campaign has stressed that his tax rate was still lower than the planned increase for top earners in the U.S.

14 thoughts on “Meet The True One Percent: Mansa Musa I”

  1. But if this guy had his money in the Cayman Islands then we would not know the full extent of his wealth. Ask Romney.

  2. What a great deal of liberty to be that wealthy. A person could think aloud “I think it would be a good idea to put a world seed repository above the arctic circle to preserve the flora of the world in the event of a catastrophe.”

    Then, he/she could turn to an assistant and say “Make it so” and it happens.

  3. idealist707 1, October 30, 2012 at 8:10 am

    There was a fable west african king, who continued the anciént trade of supplying Europe (from Roman times) with gold. He made a trip to Mecca, first vie Cairo, and his courts generosity disturbed gold prices for weeks on end.

    Fable is just another word for old news.

    There is a lyric in the new Dylan album, Tempest, that may be relevant:

    In Scarlet Town, where I was born
    There’s ivy leaf and silver thorn
    The streets have names that you can’t pronounce
    Gold is down to a quarter of an ounce
    The music starts and the people sway
    Everybody says, “Are you going my way? ”
    Uncle Tom still workin’ for Uncle Bill
    Scarlet Town is under the hill.

    (Scarlet Town). Gonna see the Tempest concert soon.

  4. Aaron Socio (@AaronSocio) 1, October 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

    WAR, noun.
    A by-product of the arts of peace.
    “War is peace” …

    Now where have we heard that before?

  5. WAR, noun.
    A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. “In time of peace prepare for war” has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end — that change is the one immutable and eternal law — but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his “stately pleasure dome” — when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu — that he
    heard from afar
    Ancestral voices prophesying war.
    One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of “hands across the sea,” and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.

  6. I guess even in execution you still have wealth…..number 5 above….. I’m curious how they calculated William the…. Greatest thiefs wealth….. Not bad for an illegitimate child of a French king I do believe…..

  7. Injecting too much “money” in the system causes inflation. Spain was explained as such a case.
    Spending them on luxuries, ie non-producing investments, worsen the problem. Note: I am not an economist, nor pretend to be one.

  8. Gene – the squandering of great fortunes always fascinated me. Think of the tons of gold and jewels stolen from the New World by the Spanish, certainly many billions of dollars. Yet Spain was one of the poorest countries on the continent just a few years later. That makes the fairly routine loss of dad/granddad’s wealth seem almost understandable.

    Still they are interesting stories

  9. There was a fable west african king, who continued the anciént trade of supplying Europe (from Roman times) with gold. He made a trip to Mecca, first vie Cairo, and his courts generosity disturbed gold prices for weeks on end. The riches seemed boundless, it was
    said. On his return journey, he pause again in Cairo, but tiring of being taken he left them with curses for their greed. He came home with many stories to tell, I presume.

  10. The 1% of today’s world, in global terms, are better leveraged than Mansa Musa was.

    They are diversified within 147 international corporations that own portions of each other.

    Their core is the fossil fuel companies, but wrapped around that are international banking entities, then other layers of the onion.

  11. Mansa Musa’s fortune also dissolved as quickly as it accumulated. As his heirs fought each other and invading forces, the King of Mali’s trove was gone, spent in two generations.

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