The Richest People in Human History, to the Industrial Revolution
Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.
When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.
For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires—while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.
This infographic we created with Texas Precious Metals focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution, and it highlights key facts and anecdotes on how they created their wealth.
Is This List of People Definitive?
While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.
Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.
Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa—these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.
Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.
So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun—and that the list of the richest people in history may change depending on who you ask!
Mapped: Federal Tax Paid Per Capita Across Canada
We show which provinces and territories pay the most and least tax after adjusting for the number of tax filers in each jurisdiction.
Mapped: Federal Tax Paid Per Capita Across Canada
Which parts of Canada pay the most personal tax? In 2021, according to the latest available data, people in Ontario paid by far the greatest share: 42% of the total. Of course, Ontario is also the most populated province.
But if we look at which parts of the country paid the most and least taxes on a per capita basis, the picture looks different. In this graphic from Fidelity Investments, we show the amount paid per tax filer for each province and territory.
A Breakdown of Tax Per Person
We took the total personal federal tax paid in each province according to 2021 tax filing data from the Canada Revenue Agency. We then divided the total tax paid by the number of people filing taxes in the province. Below, we rank the provinces and territories from least to most taxes on this basis.
|Province or Territory
|Federal Tax Paid Per Person
|Prince Edward Island
|Newfoundland and Labrador
|All of Canada
All of Canada is calculated as the total federal taxes paid in Canada divided by the total number of tax filers in Canada.
New Brunswick paid the least taxes on a per capita basis. Within the province, 13% of people worked in retail jobs, the highest proportion nationally. Retail positions in New Brunswick earned $34,000 annually on average. As a whole, 71% of people in New Brunswick earned less than $49,000 per year.
The Highest Taxes Per Capita
The Northwest Territories (NWT) paid the most taxes relative to the number of tax filers. Public administration workers made up nearly a quarter of tax filers, four times the national share of 6%. These workers, which include local, provincial, federal, and aboriginal government employees, had an average annual income of $120,000 in the NWT.
Additionally, the territory also had a relatively high proportion of people working in mining, who earned $221,000 a year on average.
However, it’s important to note that the NWT faces a high cost of living. On average, households in the capital city of Yellowknife paid 28% more for food and 47% more for shelter than the average Canadian household in 2021.
On a per person basis, Ontario paid the third highest taxes in Canada. The province had the highest proportion of finance and insurance workers, who earned $106,000 annually.
Reducing Your Taxes
Generally, a higher income leads to higher taxes. However, you can explore allowable deductions such as RRSP contributions to save more of your money.
Use Fidelity’s income tax calculator to quickly estimate your taxes.
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