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  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 3 - Mansa Musa's Massive Sack (Journeys Week)

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Sam's Episode Notes: The Hajj of Mansa Musa: The long walk that destroyed an economy.

King Mansa Musa the first of Mali was LOADED. One of the richest men to ever live, he actually became king by accident. See, he was originally the advisor to his predecessor, who went off on an ocean trip to explore new worlds, and vanished. So you have to kind of question the motives of the guy who advised him to do that. Anyway, Musa became the 10th king of Mali in 1312. And Musa became RICH. The empire of Mali was huge, it had Been growing rapidly for around a century before he came along, and under Musa, it grew even richer, capturing most of Mauritania Mali had ridiculous gold and salt reserves, as well as being on the sub-saharan trade routes and a major source of slave trading. His kingdom produced most of the world’s gold, so being the Mansa, which means king or literally conqueror, was basically a ticket to print money. There is no way to really assess how wealthy he was, because quite simply there was nothing to compare it to. But I've seen estimates of a personal wealth of $400 billion banded around. So, a lot. His personal wealth eclipsed most European nations' treasuries.

Put it this way, along his 1324 pilrimage to Mecca, he ruined the economies of every place he travelled through just by being there. And by trying to be generous. So, as you can tell by the fact he was going on pilgrimage, Musa was a devout Muslim, and so wanted to perform the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. It was a long trip, a journey of about 9,000 kilometres or 5,500 miles. He would travel across central Africa, and then up through Egypt. So, quite the backpacking trip. Better pack light, eh? Not if you’re richest man in the world. Mansa’s overnight bag contained the following: 60,000 of his closest companions and their friends, 12,000 slaves, each carrying a little under two kilograms of gold, 80 camels with up to 135kg of gold. And 500 servants to march in front of the procession, each carrying a 5kg golden staff. So, in all, about 32 tonnes of gold. And a change of pants. To give you some idea of just how much that is, today, all the gold mines in the world produce around 3,000 tonnes a year. So he took 1% of the world's current gold production with him for holiday spending Money. And this was in a time before machinery – all dug by hand, All incredibly rare. I did some maths based on historical gold prices, and in 2018 money, he took 283 million quid on holiday with him. And he single handedly ruined the economies of everywhere he went along the way. The problem is that gold is rare, which is why its used as money. By giving away more gold to everyone he met than they would have earned in their lifetime, it caused the price of goods and food to skyrocket. Money became worthless and hyperinflation threatened Governments along his path. His donations caused a decade-long recession in Cairo, Medina and Mecca. He ruined. Ruined. The countries he travelled through. But, you know, he was a generous sort. And so, on his way back and learning that he’d accidentally caused a recession by partying too hard, he tried to fix it by borrowing back as much gold as he could from the locals at high interest rates. Did it fix it? No. But in the process he managed to inadvertently control the price of gold for the entire Mediterranean and north Africa. In fact, if you look at the historical price of gold, at around the time Musa went on his little trip, world prices dropped by 50%. Gold wouldn't be as cheap for another 700 years, until world war one mucked up the world economy.

Most historians believe his intentions were good, although there are a couple who suggest that he actually went out to economically ruin his neighbours. But given that gold was Mali's biggest export and he crashed the price of, er, gold, that may be unlikely. It's estimated Musa wiped the equivalent of £1.5 billion off the Islamic world's economy – and like all the great bearers of financial disaster, he got off scot free and slunk off into obscurity. After returning from his little trip in 1325, we don't really know much more about what happened to history's richest man. Some believe he died shortly after returning home and his son became the Mansa, but other historical records suggest he was still in charge for another ten years or so, or retired at some point during that time. The Mali Empire carried on being ridiculously rich for another could of hundred years before collapsing through infighting and then being swallowed up by its neighbours. And that's the story of how one man's holiday ruined several economies.

Tom's notes: The Saga of Eric the Red

Viking voice

Enjoy exploration

Viking Sagas

Greenland and Newfoundland and Labrador

Saga of Eric the Red and Greenland Saga

13th Century documents, event around 1000AD

3 good journeys described


Eric the Red

· Early settler of Iceland

· Banished to an Island off Iceland

o Landslip

o Eyjolf the Foul

o Fight and deaths

· Beads/pillars to Thorgest

o Fight and deaths

· Discover new land

o Gunnbjorn – 100 years earlier

o Greenland

o Return to Iceland; settlers (‘Greenland’).


· Join Eric

· Terrible journey

o Fevers and gails

o Half of crew survive

· Tough times in Greenland too!

· Thorbjorg

o Prophetess

§ Dress

§ Food

§ Prophecy

§ Weird Song

· Finally joins Eric

Leif Erikson

· Son of Eric

· Sails to Norway

o Olaf Tryggvason

o Christianity

· Blown of course


· Reaches home

· Christianity = no sex

Karselfni, Snorri, Bjarni, Thorhall +160 men

· Thorhall QUOTE

o 160 men

· Keel of ship

· 2 Scots; fleet footed

· Clothing QUOTE

o Onesie

· 3 days

· Wheat and grapes

· Difficult winter

o Praying to god

o Thorhall sings to Thor - whale

o Gloats

o No more whale!

· Summer, party splits

o Thorhall blown of course to Ireland and dies

· Find great spot

o Nine canoes


· Later

o More Skraelings

o Trade

· Later still

o Bull escapes

o Scares Skraelings

o 3 weeks later fight

o Catapults and missiles

· Continue journeying

o 3 Skraeling chest full of blood and marrow

o Family; kidnap the kids

o Land beyond QUOTE

· One legged men

o Monopods

o Mappa mundi

o Pliny the Elder

o Isidore of Seville

· Headed to Iceland

o Bjarni’s ship; sea worm

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