The 10 Richest People of All Time (2023)

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Who had more money, John D. Rockefeller or Genghis Khan? It’s a simple question with a very difficult answer.

This ranking of the richest people of all time is based on hours of interviews with academic economists and historians. To read more about how the order was determined despite the difficulty of comparing wealth across a wide range of time periods and economic systems, read this.

But for now, suffice to say that the following is a rigorous but highly debatable attempt to list the wealthiest historical figures in order of their economic influence.

10. Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

A. Dagli—De Agostini/Getty Images

Lived: 1162-1227

Country: Mongolian Empire

Wealth: Lots of land, not much else

Genghis Khan is undoubtedly one of the most successful military leaders of all time. As leader of the Mongol Empire, which at its height stretched from China to Europe, he controlled the largest contiguous empire in history. However, despite his great power, scholars say Genghis never hoarded his wealth. On the contrary, the Khan’s generosity was key to his influence.

“One of the basis of his success is sharing the spoils with his soldiers and other commanders,” says Morris Rossabi, a distinguished professor of history at CUNY’s Queens College.

Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, explains that Mongol soldiers, unlike many pre-modern armies, were banned from taking personal loot. After an area was conquered, every item taken was inventoried by official clerks and then later distributed amongst the military and their families.

Genghis still received a share of the spoils, but that hardly made him rich. “He built no palace for himself or family, no temple, no tomb, and not even a house,” says Weatherford. “He was born in a wool ger [yurt] and he died in a wool ger. At death he was wrapped in felt, like any common person, and then buried.”

9. Bill Gates

Bill Gates

(Video) Top 10 RICHEST People In History

Edgar Su—Reuters

Lived: 1955-present

Country: United States

Wealth: $78.9 billion

As the richest living person, Bill Gates’ wealth is refreshingly easy to determine. As of this year, Forbes estimates the Microsoft founder’s net worth at $78.9 billion. That’s about $8 billion more than Zara co-founder Amancio Ortega, the second-richest person in the world.

8. Alan Rufus (a.k.a. Alan the Red)

Lived: 1040–1093

Country: England

Wealth: $194 billion

The nephew of William the Conqueror, Rufus joined his uncle in the Norman conquest. He died with £11,000, according to Philip Beresford and Bill Rubinstein, authors of The Richest of the Rich, which they say amounted to 7% of England’s GDP at the time. That would amount to $194 billion in 2014 dollars.

7. John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller Sr.

Seattle Times/JR Partners—Getty Images

Lived: 1839–1937

Country: United States

Wealth: $341 billion

Rockefeller began investing in the petroleum industry in 1863 and by 1880 his Standard Oil company controlled 90% of American oil production.

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According to his New York Times obituary, Rockefeller was valued at about $1.5 billion based on a 1918 federal income tax return and estimates of his overall fortune—the equivalent of almost 2% of U.S. economic output that year according to data compiled by MeasuringWorth (the U.S. did not keep official records on national income until 1932).

The same economic share in 2014 would be equivalent to $341 billion.

6. Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie standing on the steps of his estate, circa 1910s.


Lived: 1835–1919

Country: United States

Wealth: $372 billion

Rockefeller gets all the press, but Andrew Carnegie may be the richest American of all time. The Scottish immigrant sold his company, U.S. Steel, to J.P. Morgan for $480 million in 1901. That sum equates to about slightly over 2.1% of U.S. GDP at the time, giving Carnegie economic power equivalent to $372 billion in 2014.

5. Joseph Stalin

Ullstein Bild—Getty Images

Lived: 1878–1953

Country: USSR

Wealth: Complete control of a nation with 9.6% of global GDP

Stalin is an uncommon figure in modern economic history: a dictator with absolute power who also controlled one of the largest economies in the world. While it is virtually impossible to separate Stalin’s wealth from the wealth of the Soviet Union, his unique combination of economic might and complete control of the USSR lead multiple economists to nominate him as one of the richest people of all time.

You can easily see their logic. Data from the OECD shows that in 1950, three years before Stalin’s death, the USSR made up roughly 9.5% of global economic output. As of 2014, that level of production would be equivalent to nearly $7.5 trillion dollars.

While that money didn’t belong directly to Stalin, he had the ability to leverage Soviet economic might for any reason he chose.

“He had enormous power, and through his power he could have anything he wanted,” says George O. Liber, a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “He controlled 1/6th of the land surface of the planet without any checks or balances.”

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Does that make Stalin rich in the traditional sense? Liber isn’t so sure. “Was he among the wealthiest men?” the professor wonders. “I suppose if you want to stretch the definition of wealth, but it was not his wealth. He controlled the wealth of the country.”

Even so, it’s hard not to include Stalin on a list of the most economically powerful people in history. His wealth might be uncertain, but there’s no question the premier’s personal economic influence is unrivaled in recent history.

4. Akbar I

The Great Akbar

Peter Newark Pictures—Bridgeman Images

Lived: 1542–1605

Country: India

Wealth: Ruled empire with 25% of global GDP

The greatest emperor of India’s Mughal dynasty, Akbar controlled an empire that accounted for about one-fourth of global economic output. Fortune’s Chris Matthews cites the late economic historian Angus Maddison, who speculates India’s GDP per capita under Akbar was comparable to Elizabethan England, but with “a ruling class whose extravagant lifestyle surpassed that of the European society.”

That assertion that India’s elite class was wealthier than their counterparts to the west is backed up by data from economist Branko Milanovic, whose research shows the Mughal Dynasty was one of the most effective empires of all time at extracting wealth from the population.

3. Emperor Shenzong

Emperor Shenzong

Pictures from History—Bridgeman Images

Lived: 1048–1085

Country: China

Wealth: Ruled empire with 25% to 30% of global GDP

China’s Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) was one of the most economically powerful empires of all time. According to Prof. Ronald A. Edwards, a Chinese economic historian of the Song Dynasty at Tamkang University, the nation accounted for between 25% and 30% of the world’s economic output during its peak.

The empire’s wealth came from both its technological innovations and extreme skill at tax collection, which Edwards says was hundreds of years ahead of European governments. The professor also noted the Song Dynasty’s government was highly centralized, meaning the emperor held enormous control over the economy.

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2. Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar

Hoberman Collection—UIG via Getty Images

Lived: 63 BC–14 AD

Country: Rome

Wealth: $4.6 trillion

Not only was Augustus Caesar in charge of an empire that accounted for 25% to 30% of the world’s economic output, but according to Stanford history professor Ian Morris, Augustus at one point held personal wealth equivalent to one-fifth of his empire’s economy. That fortune would be the equivalent of about $4.6 trillion in 2014. “For a while,” Morris adds, Augustus “personally owned all of Egypt.” That’s hard to top.

1. Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa

Abraham Cresques—Getty Images/The Bridgeman Art Library

Year: 1280–1337

Country: Mali

Wealth: Richer than anyone could describe

Mansa Musa, the king of Timbuktu, is often referred to as the wealthiest person in history. According to Ferrum College history professor Richard Smith, Musa’s west African kingdom was likely the largest producer of gold in the world—at a time which gold was in especially high demand.

Just how rich was Musa? There’s really no way to put an accurate number on his wealth. Records are scarce, if non-existent, and contemporary sources describe the king’s riches in terms that are impossible for the time.

Some tales of his famous pilgrimage to Mecca—during which Musa’s spending was so lavish that it caused a currency crisis in Egypt—mention dozens of camels each carrying hundreds of pounds of gold. (Smith says one year of Malian gold production probably generated about a ton.) Others said Musa’s army consisted of 200,000 men, including 40,000 archers—troop numbers even modern superpowers would have a difficult time bringing to the field.

But to get caught up in the king’s exact wealth is to miss the point. As Rudolph Ware, an associate professor of history at the University of Michigan, explains, Musa’s riches were so immense that people struggled to describe them.

“This is the richest guy anyone has ever seen, that’s the point,” says Ware. “They’re trying to find words to explain that. There are pictures of him holding a scepter of gold on a throne of gold holding a cup of gold with a golden crown on his head. Imagine as much gold as you think a human being could possess and double it, that’s what all the accounts are trying to communicate.”

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When no one can even comprehend your wealth, that means you’re pretty darned rich.


Who is the richest person of all time history? ›

Who was the richest person ever? The richest person ever is thought to have been an emperor with an accumulation of wealth often described as “unimaginable” or “incalculable.” The title goes to 14th-century African emperor Mansa Musa, and his wealth has been estimated to be the modern day equivalent of $400 billion.

Who were Trillionaires in history? ›

These are the only 6 trillionaires who lived on earth from history who reached the pinnacle of wealth .
Sadly earth's riches are only depleting.
  • Genghis Khan. 1206–1227. ...
  • Zhao Xu. 1048–1085. ...
  • Akbar, The Great. 1542–1605. ...
  • Amenhotep III. 1388–1351 BC. ...
  • Augustus Caesar. ...
  • King Solomon. ...
  • Mansa Mousa.
Jul 20, 2022

Who is the top 1 trillionaire? ›

Of the 21 individuals who stand a chance of reaching this phenomenal milestone in their lifetime, Elon Musk is predicted to be the first.

Who was the first true billionaire? ›

John D Rockefeller was announced as the world's first billionaire through newspaper headlines in 1916. Towards the end of his life, Rockefeller gave much of his money and assets to his heirs and philanthropies.

Who was the first billionaire? ›

The American business magazine Forbes produces a global list of known U.S. dollar billionaires every year and updates an Internet version of this list in real-time. The American oil magnate John D. Rockefeller became the world's first confirmed U.S. dollar billionaire in 1916.

Who is richest king in the world? ›

Richest royal families from around the world
  • Richest royals. ...
  • #7 The royal family of Brunei. ...
  • #6 The royal family of Thailand. ...
  • #5 The British royal family. ...
  • #4 The royal family of Abu Dhabi. ...
  • #3 The royal family of Qatar. ...
  • #2 The royal family of Kuwait. ...
  • #1 The royal family of Saudi Arabia. Net Worth: $1.4 trillion.
Nov 25, 2022

Who is the richest family in America? ›

The top 10 richest families in 2022 by estimated wealth are: The Walton family with $224.5 billion. The Mars family with $160 billion. The Koch family with $128.8 billion.

Who is the wealthiest family in the world? ›

The 10 Richest Families in the World
  • Koch Family. ...
  • Al Saud Family. Company: Saudi Royal Family. ...
  • Hermes Family. Company: Hermes. ...
  • Ambani Family. Company: Reliance Industries. ...
  • Wertheimer Family. Company: Chanel. ...
  • Cargill, MacMillan Family. Company: Cargill. ...
  • Thomson Family. Company: Thomson Reuters. ...
  • Hoffman, Oeri Family. Company: Roche.
Jan 17, 2023

Who is No 1 richest person in the world? ›

Key Takeaways
  • Bernard Arnault, co-founder, chair, and CEO of LVMH, is the richest person and the richest man in the world with a net worth of $190 billion. ...
  • After Arnault is co-founder and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk.

Who is richer than Elon Musk? ›

Bernard Arnault, billionaire and chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, took Elon Musk's spot as the richest person in the world. LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton CEO Bernard Arnault has done it again, displacing an American tech executive to rank as the richest person in the world.

What can you do with $1 trillion dollars? ›

While a trillion dollars can't solve every problem, he estimates it would go a long way towards tackling disease, combating global warming, protecting biodiversity, or even establishing a moon base.

Which is the richest state in the US? ›

Richest State in USA

New York is the wealthiest state in the United States, boasting a Gross State Product of over $1.6 trillion. This means that New York is responsible for around 9% of America's entire economic output, the highest percentage amongst the 50 states.

Who is the oldest billionaire alive? ›

He was the world's oldest billionaire after the death of David Rockefeller in 2017.
Chang Yun Chung
Died4 September 2020 (aged 102) Singapore
Other namesTeo Woon Tiong
Alma materXiamen Datung College
3 more rows

Who was the first female billionaire? ›

Alice Walton

Who is the first black billionaire? ›

He became the first African-American billionaire in 2001. Johnson's companies have counted among the most prominent African-American businesses in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Robert L. Johnson
BornRobert Louis Johnson April 8, 1946 Hickory, Mississippi, U.S.
6 more rows

Is Elon richer than Rockefeller? ›

10 richest people who ever lived – net worths, ranked: Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos don't come close to Genghis Khan, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller or 'trillionaires' Catherine the Great and Joseph Stalin.

Who is the richest queen in the world? ›

The wealthiest female monarch in the world right now is also the only reigning queen left after Queen Elizabeth died in September. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is a lone wolf in the competition, as her other current female contenders were all queen consorts who married into royalty.

Who is the richest black man in history? ›

According to the 2021 Forbes ranking of the world's billionaires, Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote had a net worth of $11.5 billion and was the world's richest black man.

Who is the greatest king in the world history? ›

Alexander the GreatKing of Macedonia and Persia. Pharaoh of Egypt.356 BC – 323 BC
Alfonso III of AsturiasKing of León, Galicia and Asturias848 – 910
Alfred the GreatKing of Wessex and the Anglo-Saxons848/849 – 899
Amenhotep IIIPharaoh of Egypt? – 1353 BC
112 more rows

Who are the 5 richest families? ›

  • ↓ Name Walton. Company Walmart. Wealth $224.5bn. ...
  • ↑ Name Mars. Company Mars. Wealth $160bn. ...
  • ↑ Name Koch. Company Koch Industries. Wealth $128.8bn. ...
  • ↑ Name Al Saud. Company N/A. ...
  • ↓ Name Hermes. Company Hermes. ...
  • ↓ Name Ambani. Company Reliance Industries. ...
  • ↑ Name Wertheimer. Company Chanel. ...
  • ↑ Name Cargill, MacMillan. Company Cargill.
Oct 28, 2022

Who is the richest couple in America? ›

Jay-Z and Beyoncé are actually the richest celebrity couple in the world. They are miles ahead of couples like David and Victoria Beckham and Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen. Beyoncé wears a Lorraine Schwartz wedding band worth $5 million.

Who is the richest black child in America? ›

Sarah Rector was 11 when oil was discovered on her land in Oklahoma in 1913. Her sudden wealth became the object of racist news coverage.

What is the richest last name? ›

Astor. The Astor family is associated with wealth and power in the United States and the United Kingdom. John Jacob Astor IV is often considered one of the wealthiest people in history.

Who are the 3 richest families in America? ›

Family Matters
RankFamilyOrigin of Wealth
#1Walton FamilyWalmart
#2Koch FamilyKoch Industries
#3Mars FamilyMars Inc.
#4Cargill-MacMillan FamilyCargill Inc.
6 more rows
Mar 27, 2021

Who is the most elite family in America? ›

It comes as no surprise that the wealthiest family in the United States is the Waltons – with a net worth of $247 billion. That's $147 billion more than the second wealthiest family – Koch Family. The Koch family is America's second-richest family. Their fortune is rooted in an oil firm founded by Fred Chase Koch.

How many trillionaires are there? ›

A trillionaire is an individual with a net worth equal to at least one trillion in U.S. dollars or a similarly valued currency, such as the euro or the British pound. Currently, no one has yet claimed trillionaire status, although some of the world's richest individuals may only be a few years away from this milestone.

Who are the only 6 Trillionaires? ›

Who were the six trillionaires?
  • Genghis Khan. 1206–1227. ...
  • Zhao Xu. 1048–1085. ...
  • Akbar, The Great. 1542–1605. ...
  • Amenhotep III. 1388–1351 BC. ...
  • Augustus Caesar. ...
  • King Solomon. ...
  • Mansa Mousa.

Who was the first black trillionaire? ›

He became the first African-American billionaire in 2001. Johnson's companies have counted among the most prominent African-American businesses in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Robert L. Johnson
BornRobert Louis Johnson April 8, 1946 Hickory, Mississippi, U.S.
6 more rows


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