Men of Wealth: The Story of Twelve Significant Fortunes from the Renaissance to the Present Day

Men of Wealth: The Story of Twelve Significant Fortunes from the Renaissance to the Present Day

Men of Wealth: The Story of Twelve Significant Fortunes from the Renaissance to the Present Day

Men of Wealth: The Story of Twelve Significant Fortunes from the Renaissance to the Present Day

Excerpt

JACOB FUGGER, surnamed the Rich, was the most important and imposing figure in the dawn of the capitalist era. Starting out to be a priest, he ended by becoming the greatest millionaire of the sixteenth century -- greatest of merchant adventurers, first important industrialist-promoter of the modern world, banker to emperors and popes, whose countinghouses, warehouses, and factories spread to every city and port along all the trade routes of Europe.

Born three decades before Columbus discovered America, Fugger came into the world at a moment when men everywhere saw with dismay that their world was mortally sick. A monstrous internal growth was splitting the womb of feudalism. A new set of bones and muscles and nerves was drawing life from the disintegrating tissues of the old social system. Life and vigor were already in the blood of the infant ism that would take over the world for the next five centuries and that now, in its turn, seems gray and feeble and finds within its own womb struggling for birth a whole litter of new systems. Men were groping for new forms and patterns under which to live, and new instruments of organization suited to ordering these new ways. Profit, the modern merchant, and the middle class had come upon the scene to challenge the scholastic ethics and economics of Aquinas, the political theories of Albertus Magnus, the acquisitive techniques of the brigand nobles. And in the organization of the commercial instruments of this new era Fugger played a role not unlike that of Rockefeller and Morgan in giving direction and form to the new . . .

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