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Monday, 11 March 2019

Step aside Bezos: Meet the richest person in history

Meet Mansa Musa, the richest person in history: The story of Mansa Musa, the 14th century African ruler estimated to have been the richest man who ever lived, reads like a fairytale. But this may be because, as this piece by Naima Mohamud for the BBC notes, “the history of the medieval period is still largely seen only as Western history.” Musa’s kingdom of Mali stretched for 2,000 miles and the king’s empire reportedly accounted for almost half the gold of the Old World. So when Musa embarked on an epic pilgrimage to Mecca, he traveled through the desert accompanied by 60,000 men in gold brocade and Persian silk and a hundred camels weighed down with the precious metal.

One of his most notable stops was in Cairo, where he handed out so much gold that its value throughout the region decreased dramatically for 10 years, reportedly leading to some USD 1.5 bn of cumulative economic losses.

Have a look at the list of the wealthiest men of all time for a reminder of how skewed the Eurocentric view of history is: Not only does Musa top the list with his “incomprehensible” wealth, but right up there beside him are Zhao Xu, 11th century ruler of China, and Akbar I, 16th century ruler of India. The wealth of both is termed “incalculable.”

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