The fabulous Fuggers

The invention of the modern world begins with money.

The modern era is not that new, or so it would seem from the remarkable saga of the Fugger dynasty, the banking family from Augsburg that put together what amounted to the world's first multinational finance company in the 1500s, a veritable power- house. The Fuggers engineered the election of two Holy Roman emperors while simultaneously acting as bankers to the Pope, for whom they also founded the Swiss Guard.

The most notable Fugger was Jakob, known as 'the Rich', who accumulated a princely fortune while acting as the prototype of the enlightened entrepreneur. He was the first to introduce the concept of public housing.

Jakob studied and learned the ropes in Italy, having reached Venice in 1473, aged 14. He stayed there till 1481, during which time he acquired a good grounding in accounting and banking (double-entry bookkeeping was first conceived by the Tuscan mathematician Luca Pacioli, while cheques were invented by another Tuscan, the merchant Francesco Datini from Prato.)

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