Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

All this talk about wealth distribution (1% of US Citizens etc. etc.) got me wondering about the wealth distribution in other periods of history when - let's call them - great edifices were built.

E.g. when the major pyramids were built, did '1% of the population' control as much wealth as the 'bottom 90%'? Was the ratio even more exaggerated?

I suppose the question could be answered with the most accurate demographics from any civilization / empire period, where a major edifice was created (great wonder, 'multi-national infrastructure', etc).

Personally, I'm curious to understand the relationship between cultural projects and wealth distribution.

share|improve this question
Having great capital leads to having greater capital (hence "capitalism"). But even 500 years ago the positive feedback loop of capital was of no importance whatsoever. It was important to have much land, vasals, and army. If you had money, great, but it didn't led you to have even more money; you had the money so you spent it and had less. –  kubanczyk Nov 24 '12 at 10:22
I don't believe the pyramids of Egypt attest to an unusual distribution of wealth for an ancient empire, but rather to the unusual total wealth available to the rulers of the lower Nile valley. Sometimes quantity has a quality all its own. –  T.E.D. Nov 26 '12 at 18:54
This is a little hard to answer as in ancient times the wealth valuation would have been an issue. How do you value being considered a god? (Pharaoh/Roman emperors). How do you value ability to declare war just to get more resources and slaves? You can't run Black-Shoales on that option. How do you value ability to sham-convict millions of people and get them to build Belomor-Canal for free? Money has a lot different meaning in today's world than 500+ years ago, as kubanczyk said –  DVK Nov 27 '12 at 18:11
Also, technically speaking, in many societies, 100% of everything everyone owned was ultimately the property of the Royal. So 100% was owned by them. –  DVK Nov 27 '12 at 18:13
@NewAlexandria Every your word assures me we are not on the same page at all. "Wealth" and "currency" are terms that don't help with anything here, but very much contribute to misunderstanding and useless debates. –  kubanczyk Nov 28 '12 at 14:16
show 3 more comments

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.