Intriguing and revealing with a healthy dose of wit!

The Rich :From Slaves to Super Yachts by John Kampfner

Book Review

By Michael Ronald, Editor

Rating : **** – Excellent. Definitely RecommendedSynopsis

A walk through selected figures from History’s Richest Moguls. They were Kings, Business Leaders, Politicians and Geeks. Some became a part of the 1% at an early age, like Mark Zuckerberg, while others, such as Andrew Carnegie, achieved it in their twilight years. At some point in their life, these titans of the world controlled everything around them. John Kampfner paints a compelling and succinct account of their motivations, desires and methods.

Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador who sailed his first journey at 51 years of age. By the end of his life, he had destroyed an empire, amassed a fortune and was murdered by his former partners.

A brilliant and smooth rendition of some of History’s wealthiest, Kampener captures these short stories against the backdrop of understanding a vital question; are the Super-Rich made by determination or luck? As the inequalities of our current world trouble us, the Super Rich are not a new phenomena. They have always existed and by analysing their behaviour through the centuries, can we predict 1) the attributes required to do so and 2) how society has greatly been influenced by them.

Some of the deeds and notoriety of these various individuals have been humorously and sardonically elaborated by Kampfner, keeping the overtone light. His exploration of their lives is presented in a witty and intriguing manner, with anecdotes that remains with the reader.

Marcus Crassus was so rich he bought himself an army and led them to fight Spartacus. The Roman Republic was so desperate that they gave him political appointments in gratitude.

First featured are the ancient Roman societies with iconoclasts who owned thousands of Slaves, as Marcus Crassus was. They transformed their wealth into political and military power, overthrowing governments, changing regimes and leading revolutions.

Did they build a personal city perhaps, as Louis XIV ‘The Sun God’ of France did? His palace of Versailles was a gilded, ludicrously expensive luxury for which the poor paid dearly in taxes. Alfred Krupp begin an armaments company that would become synonymous across the world through two bloody World Wars. More than needing War, they encouraged it.

Bill Gates has been amongst top 3 Richest Human beings for the last two decades.

Is there any remorse from the bankers who caused the financial crisis of 2008? The Bankers had numerous investment options, stocks worth hundreds of millions of dollars and annual bonuses which would feed a dozen families for a lifetime. Yet they were irresponsible, careless and downright negligent during the beginning of a crisis that would see thousands homeless, and even more destitute. Did they experience guilt, a pang of conscience as they saw the world economy crash? Did it change their behaviour in the future?


Mansa Musa distributed huge amounts of Gold while encountering any stranger during his Haj. Thousands became rich and the value of Gold dropped.

The Super Rich have been present throughout Human History. Irrespective of Political, Cultural or Economic conditions , billionaires thrived in every society. The ancient empire of Tanzania produced Mansa Musa, who was so rich that he single-handedly devalued gold all over the world. Communist China in the twenty first century has given us Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Ali Baba.

Author : John Kampfner

Therein the crux of the author’s eventual message. That regardless of circumstance, taxes and government obstructions, the Super-Rich find a way through.

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