According to an old saying, the very rich are different from you and me because they have more money. According to The Wall Street Journal senior editor Cynthia Crossen, the very rich are different because they often cross into unknown territory to obtain their great wealth--and regularly presage significant changes in society and culture while doing so. Crossen profiles 10 of these notable magnates in The Rich and How They Got That Way, focusing on a truly unorthodox assortment from a thousand-year period that fit this dual definition. The result is novel, engaging, and instructive.
Much of this stems from the choices that Crossen has made, which range chronologically from military leader Machmud of Ghazni of the 10th century to technology leader Bill Gates of the 21st. In between, there's Genghis Khan (who went "beyond simple robbery" to "taxing a conquered people"); Mansa Musa (a master of early worldwide trade routes through Africa); Pope Alexander VI (who managed to "rule the spiritual world and manipulate the political"); Jacob Fugger (a 15th-century German moneylender); John Law (who refashioned France's treasury during the late 1600s); Richard Arkwright (a forefather of the 18th-century British industrial revolution); Howqua, (a Chinese trader at the tail end of his country's global isolation); and Hetty Green ("the early 20th-century queen of the stock market"). Students of both business enterprise and world history will appreciate how these stories tie together the surprisingly parallel development of each discipline. --Howard Rothman [via]