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Business books of the year: Fascinating glimpse into history, by Allister Heath

“This is a superb book: the first comprehensive and rigorous study of Britain’s richest people throughout history, from the time of William the Conqueror to the present. The authors are Britain’s two leading experts on the subject; their findings fascinating. To be able to compare people’s wealth over time, and adjust for inflation, purchasing power and drastically different levels of wealth, Philip Beresford and William D Rubinstein followed a simple yet powerful formula. They took individuals’ share of the net national income during the time in which they lived and expressed it in today’s terms as a percentage of Britain?s £1.1 trillion or so gross domestic product.

The minimum wealth required to enter the immortal list is over £2.5bn in today?s money. The richest Briton of all time is Alan Rufus, who died in 1093 and was the most senior Breton in England at the time. A vicious warrior, his land was worth £11,000, a massive 7.33% of net national income and £81.3bn in today’s money. The list is dominated by early and medieval figures such as Rufus, William of Warenne, Robert of Mortain and the like. Lashki Mittal, the richest man alive today in Britain with £19.2bn, ranks just 20th. Only 18 current billionaires make it to the top 250. The book’s easy style and lucid prose make it perfect Christmas reading.”

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