The Economist reports about (a book about) Jacob Fugger, the richest and one of the most influential men of his time.
The principal banker to the Habsburgs, Jacob Fugger bet on their ascent. He held interests in the copper and silver business; “helped finance a Portuguese scheme to relocate the pepper and spice trade to Lisbon, a move so successful that it delivered a fatal blow to the commercial stature of Venice”; and created a network of couriers that served as news service.
He raised finance by introducing savings accounts which paid 5% interest and in the process, convinced the Medici Pope Leo X to contravene the Catholic church’s ban on usury in 1515; usury was redefined as “profit that is acquired without labour, cost or risk.”
He also offered money transfers (3% commission) and—unintentionally—helped start the Reformation through his involvement in the sale of indulgences (proceeds split with his business partner and Pope Leo, who needed funds to pay for St. Peter’s). In 1517, Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses.
The enemies of Jacob Fugger included the Teutonic Knights and Thomas Müntzer, a cleric and leader of the German Peasants’ Revolt in 1520.