Monday, October 08, 2007

Richest Britons return -- now in book form

For quite a while -- since 1989, in fact -- the Times of London has published a Rich List which includes the richest 1,ooo people who live and work (if that's the word) in the UK. I have very little interest in that list. In 2000, however, the devisors of the Rich List tried to estimate the wealth of the richest 200 Britons since 1066. No easy matter, and maybe not possible at all! But they gave it a good try, not being satisfied with merely coming up with a rough monetary estimate of how much each person had, and adjusting for inflation. That would have been laughably useless. Rather, they estimated the total wealth of England or Britain, depending on what century they were working on, and then estimated how much of that national wealth each really rich person had. Finally they assigned them a total wealth in pounds sterling which would give them that share of Britain's total wealth now -- or, rather, in 2000.

The web version of this exercise is long gone, but now news comes that a revised book version will be out on October 15.

I can't tell whether you'll enjoy the book, but I'm going to shell out for it. The list is a great combination of people you've never heard of (like James Craggs, #19, died 1721, who made the equivalent of 21 billion pounds on army clothing contracts) and the much more famous (like Eleanor of Aquitaine). Of those I know, it really is remarkable how many died violently.

I guess that's less surprising when you reflect on how few of these people led productive lives, as opposed to being well-connected grafters or out and out plunderers. The first two on the list were among the Norman conquerors.

Image:
The murder of Thomas Becket (#13) as visualized in the mid-14th century.

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