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The Rich: From Slaves to Super-Yachts: A 2,000-Year History by John Kampfner (Little, Brown, £25)

Honoré de Balzac claimed that behind every fortune lies a great crime. For John Kampfner, in this history of the super-rich, that is only partially true.

Unfortunately, a nod to the great novelist is as close as we get here to an overarching theory. In a series of amusing accounts of the absurdly wealthy, Kampfner’s book offers a cornucopia of vulgarity, excess and the desperate search for prestige—from Marcus Crassus in late Republican…

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