2

There are numerous sources claiming that Mansa Musa, King of Mali, was one of the richest people alive (#1, #2). Essentially, these claim that Musa was one of the richest people in the history of the world, and that the gold he took on his journeys caused significant inflation in Egypt:

Mansa Musa wasn't stingy about his wealth, either. He would frequently bestow gifts upon dignitaries he met with. On his stop in Cairo, he spent so much gold to the poor that he caused mass inflation.

#1

Musa is known to have visited the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, Al-Nasir Muhammad, in July 1324. Despite his nature of giving, Musa's massive spending and generous donations created a massive ten year gold recession. In the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal significantly. Prices of goods and wares became greatly inflated.

#2

A previous question on SE also exists which relates to Mali in general (but not to this topic in specific), which further referenced a Time article that is no longer available on the same link. I found a BBC article with more or less similar info:

Mansa Musa left such a memorable impression on Cairo that al-Umari, who visited the city 12 years after the Malian king, recounted how highly the people of Cairo were speaking of him.

So lavishly did he hand out gold in Cairo that his three-month stay caused the price of gold to plummet in the region for 10 years, wrecking the economy.

US-based technology company SmartAsset.com estimates that due to the depreciation of gold, Mansa Musa's pilgrimage led to about $1.5bn (£1.1bn) of economic losses across the Middle East.

History.com seems to outdo the others with reference to detail:

From the markets of Cairo to royal offices to the impoverished people that crossed his path in Egypt, Musa’s generosity and purchase of foreign goods left the streets littered with gold—a resource that was greatly appreciated and in short supply. The people were thrilled—at least at first. Though well-intentioned, Musa’s gifts of gold actually depreciated the value of the metal in Egypt, and the economy took a major hit. It took 12 years for the community to recover.

However, a look at the Medieval Egypt related Wikipedia entries suggests that the origin of the problems was not as easily determined -- or, at least, does not highlight the Malian king as the clear source of these issues (was the Mamluk economy undergoing difficulties even without the Malian king's entry into Cairo?). That said, Wikipedia also doesn't describe the contention between al-Nasir Muhammad and Musa in nearly as much detail as the History.com article above did so perhaps it's light on detail. The mention, on Wiki's al-Nasir entry reads simply (#3):

Though the economy of Egypt flourished during the third reign of an-Nasir, there were financial problems and a rise in prices caused by the circulation of underweight and alloyed coins. An-Nasir minted a few thousands new coins to replace the spurious coins.

So, in light of this, I would like to ask whether the gold that was brought in by Mansa Musa really was the ultimate cause of Egypt's problems -- as most easily accessible reference documents seem to suggest -- and, further, what solutions did the Mamluk government employ to try and rectify the situation? Information on methods that they tried to employ but which did not succeed would be highly useful as well.

I should note that why I am trying to look into this is because Mansa Musa's case seems to be one of the earlier documented cases of (hyper)inflation.

  • Note that I referenced the Time article (along with several others) as examples of publications lacking sources for the assertion that Mansa Musa is the richest person ever. – Lars Bosteen Apr 1 at 23:14
  • @LarsBosteen: Yes, I did notice that. However, I don't think it matters much whether he was the richest ever for this question. – gktscrk Apr 2 at 5:06
  • Why would a fall in the value of gold depress the economy? – Timothy Apr 2 at 20:16
  • @Timothy: Well... Would it not reduce the purchasing power of everyone? – gktscrk May 14 at 21:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.