The President of the United States is often called the most powerful person in the world. This rings true, given the size of the US military and the extent of its ideological and economic influence. But there are several other world leaders who can claim similar power given the population, wealth and relative power of their nations, as well as political configurations that make it easier for them to carry out their agenda.
Even today’s most powerful rulers may not wield the relative influence of some ancient rulers. Over the past centuries, a few dozen people have come to control vast swathes of the globe and rule over huge percentages of the total world population.
24/7 Wall St. has created a list of 50 of the Most Powerful Leaders of All Time. It can be argued that all American presidents since 1945, as well as all leaders of the former Soviet Union since the end of World War II, should be on the list. Some of these men are on the list. But for the sake of diversity and an understanding that power is relative to the times in which it is exercised, we have included leaders from the distant past as well as other figures such as religious leaders, inspiring and civil rights.
The most powerful rulers in history have held many different titles – president, dictator, king, emperor, and pharaoh, as well as religious and other titles. These leaders won their power through free elections, their charisma, their philosophies and brute force. Some of the most powerful rulers have been dead for millennia, while others were in power in 2021.
A handful of the rulers on the list have achieved their power by accumulating and maintaining followers with nothing more than ideals and philosophies. However, the vast majority of the most powerful rulers in history owe much of their power to their military might. For much of human history, the only way to gain power was to defeat your enemies in battle. More contemporary leaders, even in democratic countries, at least have the backing of a large military force. These are the countries with the largest armies in the world.
Click here to see the most powerful leaders of all time.