Meet Mansa Musa I of Mali—The Richest Human Being in All History

John Hall, Independent, October 16, 2012

When we think of the world’s all-time richest people, names like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and John D Rockefeller immediately come to mind.

But few would have thought, or even heard of, Mansa Musa I of Mali—the obscure 14th century African king who was today named the richest person in all history.

Mansa Musa I

With an inflation adjusted fortune of $400 billion, Mansa Musa I would have been considerably richer than the world’s current richest man, Carlos Slim, who ranks in 22nd place with a relatively paltry $68 billion.

The list, compiled by the Celebrity Net Worth website, ranks the world’s 24 richest people of all time. The list advertises itself as the top 25, but 26 names appear in the list.

Although the list spans 1000 years, some aspects of wealth appear consistent throughout history; there are no women on the list, only three members are alive today, and 14 of the top 25 are American.

The list uses the annual 2199.6 per cent rate of inflation to adjust historic fortunes—a formula that means $100 million in 1913 would be equal to £2.299.63 billion today.

Mansa Musa I ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire in the early 1300s, making his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production. Many mosques he built as a young man still stand today.

After Mansa Musa I death in 1331, however, his heirs were unable to hang on to the fortune, and it was substantially depleted by civil wars and invading armies.

Second on the list are the Rothschild family, whose descendants are still among the richest people on the planet. Starting out in banking in the late 18th Century, Mayer Amschel Rothschild’s finance house accumulated a total wealth of $350 billion. The money has since been divided between hundreds of descendants, many of whom are business leaders today.

Meanwhile John D. Rockefeller, third on the list, is the richest American to have ever lived, worth $340 billion in today’s USD at the time of his death in 1937.

In comparison, the poorest man on the list is 82-year-old Warren Buffett, who at his peak net worth, before he started giving his fortune to charity, was $64 billion.

Here’s the full list of the ‘26 richest people of all time’:

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion

2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion

3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion

4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion

5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion

6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion

7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion

8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion

9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion

10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion

11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) $178.65 billion

12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) $136 billion

13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) $146.13 billion

14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) $121 billion

15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion

16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion

17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) $105 billion

18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) $90 billion

19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) $85.1 billion

20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) $80 billion

21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion

22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion

23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (land owner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion

24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion

25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65 billion

26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64 billion


Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Puggg

    #17 on the list, Stephen Girard, is relevant to our cause for some reason, I can’t remember why.

    Really, now, King Ooga Booga of 1300s Mali could not be described as richer than a modern multi-billionaire in the Western world, because he lived in 14th century Mali, and Gates, Buffett and others live in the early 21st century western world.  Because of the nature of the times and underlying societies.   In other words, he had all that wealth, but what could it really afford him in the context of 14th century western Africa?

    I’d rather be a thousandaire in America than a trillionaire in Zimbabwe.

    • IstvanIN

       Stephen Girard left his fortune to found the Girard School for orphaned white boys.  I had two cousins who went there in its post war heyday.  It was a great school. Eventually the courts overturned his will and forced the school to take in blacks.  Then they were forced to take in girls.  The school is now [email protected]  All black and latino.

  • JackKrak

    Wow – so he could afford to buy BOTH goats in all the kingdom……

  • haroldcrews

    It is hardly comparable to have absolute monarchs or dictators in the same category as entrepreneurs.  For instance in the Mali Empire all gold nuggets belonged by law to the king.  Any gold nuggets were turned over to the treasury in exchange for its equal weight in gold dust.  Effectively the king owned half the gold in his empire.  Additionally what do you do with an absolute dictator such as Stalin.  All the lands, resources and people were under his control.

  • MekongDelta69

    Figures – a black guy’s relatives blowing $400 Billion. Who would have dreamed it?!!

  • I can guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that king munster moo-haw haw or whatever the hells his name was, was not the richest man on Earth. Carlos Slim, the rich mexican isn’t really rich, I mean, if I were to examine his books, I bet I could find at least 100 crimes. Black or mexican plus rich equals the devil’s business. There are no blacks or mexicans on Earth who have earned an honest living. There is always something shady going on. They call it “hustlin’.

  • Jed Sant Devi

    We are shocked, saddened, and disappointed that his number of slaves was never given.

  • And what did he do with his vast wealth?  Did he facilitate the creation of new technologies?  Did he send expeditions out around the globe to increase the knowledge of his people?  Did he invest his wealth in his own society to grow a global empire?  Of course not, the only people who did that were the EUROPEANS.  

  • The__Bobster

    Sounds like Carlos Slim.

  • IstvanIN

     The Tsar was not executed by his own people.

  • Wealth is relative. 

    What would a man give in exchange for his soul?

  • IKantunderstand

    And so, what happened to Mansa Musa Jr.? By the way, I tried to link to the original article.  No go. Look, I’m just saying how interesting at this point in time an African turns out to be the richest person ever in the history of the world. Whoa, even assuming their data proves to be correct.(Which I doubt). What is the point of this article? Are they trying to propagandize once again that Blacks are as smart as Whites? What’s next? Oh, Albert Einstein ‘s neighbor DeMarcus White directed his pal Al in the right direction. “No dude, it’s not “E =  MC Hammer!) “

  • ImTellinYa

    And the Egyptians had airplanes and electricity y’all. Jesus was a Black man!  Europeans were just like Elvis. They ruled the world because they just copied the Blacks and Browns. 

  • We all know there will be many blacks  proudly pointing to this story as proof of their superiority and the once mighty glory of their homeland,  but in actuality this story only highlights the abject failure of the negroid race and demonstrates how little things have changed over the centuries. It is easy to figure out what happened, Arabs came across Mali, (what africans  built mosques back then?) found the gold and salt, showed the locals how to extract the wealth buried under their feet,  and contrary to popular black mythology, traded with the tribal leaders for what must have been fair value at the time.   And what is there to show for this massive amount of wealth? Mansa Musa I makes todays foreclosed and bankrupt rap stars and black athletes look like financial geniuses. I can imagine his funeral would have made James Brown proud.

  • I find this way of thinking absurd. Absolute rulers of vast empires- Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar (OK, he had his troubles with the Senate), Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, Timur Lenk, Akbar the Great, Stalin, Hitler,  …- were certainly “richer” than all these guys put together.

    They could possess anything material whenever they wanted & could do to any living being within (and frequently without) their realm of power whatever they wanted to.
    Simply, they dwarf anyone on this silly list.

  • Michael C. Scott

    No, they “built” the moon with all the stone left over from the pyramids.

  • 325air82

    I read that the Rothchilds had $500 trillion in gold tucked away

  • Michael C. Scott

    Whatever anyone thinks of the Tsar and his fragile bloodline, the women and girls should have been spared.

  • Up to my neck in CA

    Any fairy tale to make the poor blacks feel better about themselves, after all they were all Kings and Queens before the evil White man came and took it all away from them.

  • Burger93

    Mansa Musa’s wealth allowed his empire to create/build several libraries, and universities. One of them was Timbuktu, one of the worlds oldest university. Here over 25,000 scholars from around the world came to study law, politics, astronomy and mathematics…