The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger

If you were asked to name some of the richest people in history, chances are a few names such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Donald Trump and a few others would spring to mind. But would you think of Jacob Fugger? If you're unfamiliar with this name, read on - this book offers a fascinating account of a German banker who helped shape Europe's financial (and political) position.


In the days when Columbus sailed the ocean and Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, a German banker named Jacob Fugger became the richest man in history. Maybe you've heard of him, but usually his name gets blank stares. His influence rests on what he did for Austria's Habsburg family. When Fugger made his first loan to the Habsburgs, they didn't even have Vienna. By the time he finished, they had half the known world. While they got the titles, Fugger got the money. His biggest Habsburg client died penniless. Fugger died with the biggest fortune the world had even known.


Hardcover: 283 pages.

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If you were asked to name some of the richest people in history, chances are a few names such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Donald Trump and a few others would spring to mind.

But would you think of Jacob Fugger? If you're unfamiliar with this name, read on - this book offers a fascinating account of a German banker who helped shape Europe's financial (and political) position.

In the days when Columbus sailed the ocean and Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, a German banker named Jacob Fugger became the richest man in history. Maybe you've heard of him, but usually his name gets blank stares. His influence rests on what he did for Austria's Habsburg family. When Fugger made his first loan to the Habsburgs, they didn't even have Vienna. By the time he finished, they had half the known world. While they got the titles, Fugger got the money. His biggest Habsburg client died penniless. Fugger died with the biggest fortune the world had even known.

Most people become rich by spotting opportunities, pioneering new technologies, or besting opponents in negotiations. Fugger did all that through a mix of gumption, chicanery, and intellect. But he had an extra quality that allowed him to rise even higher: nerve. In an era when kings had unlimited power, Fugger had the nerve to stare down heads of state and ask them to pay back their loans - with interest.

One of his sneaky financing schemes provoked an outraged Martin Luther to write the 95 Theses and start the Reformation. In his biggest contribution to finance, Fugger got the pope to legalize money lending. He financed Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe. And he helped defeat the mobs in the German Peasants' War, which Engels called the first clash between capitalism and communism.

In The Richest Man Who Ever Lived, Greg Steinmetz for the first time gives Fugger his due. It's the ultimate untold story.

What others are saying:

"Greg Steinmetz has unearthed the improbable yet true story of the world’s first modern capitalist. Fugger emerges from this solidly researched and briskly narrated biography as surprisingly recognizable - a money-maker from a distant time who, one suspects, would be thoroughly at home with the Midases of today." - Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed and Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist "If you want to understand this visionary, controversial, and daring moneyman, read Greg Steinmetz's captivation, clear-eyed account. You'll be richer for it." - Laurence Bergreen, author of Columbus: The Four Voyages and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe.

"Enjoyable . . . readable and fast-paced." - The Wall Street Journal

"The tale of Fugger's aspiration, ruthlessness and greed is riveting."The Economist

"Provides a fascinating and useful cautionary tale of the dangers of unbridled capitalism, particularly in economies dominated by autocratic rulers." - The New York Times

Check out some reviews on this book here:

Washington Times book review

NY Times book review

Hardcover: 283 pages.

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