Riches to Rags
Once I owned Reading Railroad,
Now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

"Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're all drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal"

Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

We're all familiar with the story of the young man or woman with absolutely nothing who worked hard to make enough money to open that business, and now have it all. The overall tale behind Bill Gates' rise to multi-billionaire is one of these; he started building computers in his garage, and now has one of the largest computer empires in the world.

This trope is the exact opposite of that; it's the story of someone who used to have everything, and now finds themselves with nothing.

It may also happen by choice. If Aristocrats Are Evil, except for a good member of the rich family, this guy may decide to cut ties with his family, even if that means to give up the high-class lifestyle (this is more likely if they discover that the family wealth comes from some evil activity, such as crime). In an inversion of the classic Uptown Girl story, the guy may leave with a poor girl and embrace a new simpler life without unneeded luxuries.

If the character is from the bluest in hue of bloods, they may be an Impoverished Patrician. If the character continues on as they did when they were rich, they may be a Princess in Rags. If the character stops being an Alpha Bitch and is revealed to be insecure or to have other sympathetic traits that make the audience like her, this might be a Fallen Princess. It might be a result of A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted, and/or Never Win the Lottery, if the character is (well, was) Nouveau Riche. The Great Depression took this to its Logical Extreme.


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  • An old Discover Card commercial depicts a fictional Hair Metal band called Danger Kitty (played by Steel Panther) achieving fame and fortune in the year 1983, only to be completely broke a year later because they couldn't control their spending. The end of the commercial shows one of the band members working in a hot dog stand, and reveals that their comeback attempt involved them playing a bar mitzva.
  • A series of Dutch commercials for the mobile telecommunication company Telfort star a former millionaire who lost his entire fortune and has been forced to move from his villa to a small appartment, but at least, thanks to Telfort, he can still afford the same quality of internet and telephone services he used to have.

     Anime and Manga  
  • This had just happened to the The Twelve Kingdoms' Komatsu Saburou Naotaka in the middle of a cruel local war in medieval Japan. His land had lost soundly, his retainers and supporters had all been slain in front of him, and Naotaka himself was badly wounded and all alone. Then he met an odd kid named Enki, who turned out to be a kirin aka a mythological beast who chooses and advises the rulers of another world, and he had just seen that Naotaka is the only one who can become the leader of the Kingdom of En.
  • In Candy Candy, this is Louisa's "punishment" in the Boarding School arc.
  • Youko Nishikawa from Three Leaves, Three Colors was a rich girl, until her mother died and her father's business went bankrupt. She is now living in Perpetual Poverty, to the point where she only eats bread crusts and mayonnaise for lunch.
  • One Piece
    • In Trafalgar Law's flashback scenes, he began as a sweet little boy who came from a wealthy, reputable family of doctors, used to live in a castle-like home and wore tailor-made suits. Was forced to crawl among the dead bodies as a fugitive after the Flevance tragedy eliminated his hometown, before he decided to encounter the Donquixote Pirates at the dumpster to become one of his flunkies.
    • Law's Evil Mentor and the leader of the Doquixote Pirates, Doflamingo was the son of a very aristocratic family belonging to the World Nobles, but then his father decided to take off the group. Things went From Bad to Worse in few days and became his Start of Darkness.

     Comic Books  
  • Several Scrooge McDuck What If? stories have used this trope.
  • Forsythe from Archie Comics (2015) was the son of the richest family in Riverdale. His father was scammed into losing all their money involving a water bottling company. After that Forsythe went from being one of the coolest kids in town to a laughingstock, and was given the nickname "Jughead" after the company his dad was scammed by.
  • Iznogoud: When "The Unlucky Diamond" opens, the diamond's current owner was once a rich man, but after being given the cursed diamond for refusing to give food to a magician disguised as a beggar, he lost his house, his family, his money, everything. After he palms off the diamond on Iznogoud (who plans to give the jewel to the Caliph, only to discover it is a Clingy MacGuffin), his fortunes are restored almost immediately - as is his original haughty, "I've done my good deed for the day!" personality.

     Films — Animation  

     Films — Live-Action  
  • McLintock!!: The Warrens' backstory. When Dev Warren's father died, he left his wife Louise penniless and his son had to drop out of Perdue.
  • Trading Places does this twice:
  • The movie Maid To Order explores this with a spoiled rich girl stripped of her wealth and identity by a Fairy Godmother, forced to work as a maid in a rich household and learn the value of something.
  • Steve Martin's The Jerk goes the full circle from Rags to Riches back to rags. Martin's character invents a grip handle for glasses that becomes all the rage, amassing him a fortune. A fortune he loses when his company is sued after it's discovered the handle causes people to go permanently cross-eyed.
  • The Dark Knight Rises. Wayne Enterprises is no longer profitable after Bruce canned a high-risk project and Bruce himself goes bankrupt when the villains gamble away all of his assets on the stock market. Due to the chaos of Gotham's isolation and Bruce's apparent death, the lost money is never recovered.
  • What happened to Thorin from The Hobbit. He was once a prince of a very wealthy and powerful dwarven kingdom but after Smaug invaded Erebor, he and his people were driven out and he was forced to work menial, dead-end jobs to survive.
  • Brazilian Based on an Advice Book movie Até que a Sorte nos Separe ("Til Luck Do Us Part") has a guy who won the lottery 15 years prior finding out his fortune is basically gone after years of Conspicuous Consumption. To make it worse, he has to hide it from his wife with a pechant for spending... and who finds out that is pregnant.
  • Blue Jasmine: Flashbacks show the protagonist living a life of luxury—Upper East Side penthouse/brownstone, lavish summers in the Hamptons, black tie charity events, etc. Her life now? Sleeping on the couch in her sister's apartment, which is above a grocery store and working as a receptionist in a dentist's office, all because her financier husband turned out to be a fraud.
  • Life Stinks is a comedy about a billionaire who, as a bet, agrees to live as a hobo in a particular slum for a month. Then his lawyers and business rival destroy all record of the bet and steal his company out from under him.

  • Sister Carrie: Over the course of the novel, the rich and socially elite George W. Hurstwood gradually loses his status, his money, falls into gambling, and finally becomes homeless and commits suicide.
  • In L'Assomoir, Gervaise, after enriching with her laundry, become poor because of excessive expenses.
  • Talion: Revenant: Nolan's ancestors, apparently. He's descended from a prince who went into exile and had a family, while his descendants ended up being peasants.

     Live-Action TV  
  • Game of Thrones: By the end of the War of the Five Kings, the gold mines of the Westerlands had run dry three years prior. The Lannisters had gone through a lot of effort in order to keep that secret, mostly by taking tremdious loans from the Iron Bank and depending on their new partners the Tyrells to foot half the bill to their own Royal wedding.
  • While she never goes completely broke, Jackie is forced to give up her spoiled princess lifestyle in That '70s Show when her father is imprisoned for embezzlement and his accounts are frozen. With her mother travelling the world, Jackie ends up living with Donna.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Cordelia when her father is busted for tax evasion.
    • Angelus never had trouble maintaining a nice pad, expensive clothes, or box theater seats. ("I just ate the people who had 'em.") Once cursed and jilted by Darla, he spent years as a homeless bum living on rats.
  • Caroline on 2 Broke Girls is the daughter of a Bernie Maddoff Expy. She used to live in a mansion, have fancy clothes and owned a horse. At the start of the series she has no money and is homeless. But she still has a horse.
  • There's an unusual version of this on Downton Abbey with Sybil, who is forced to give up her privileged life as a noble's daughter when she marries Branson, the former chauffeur. However, she actually welcomes the change, as she is a Rebellious Lady who disliked the lifestyle of fashion, gossip, paying calls and being waited on hand-and-foot. She also had previous experience working as a nurse during the war and learning how to cook from the servants. And it helps that Branson gets a job as a journalist, she happily returns to being a nurse and her father gives her a little money, meaning its not so much riches to 'rags' as Not-Rich-But-Just-Comfortable-Enough-To-Get-By. But her happiness about taking up a normal life definitely gives an interesting twist to this trope.
    Mary: But you don't regret it?
    Sybil: No, never.
  • This is what happened to Pete Campbell's family on Mad Men, The Campbells were Blue Bloods who used to own half of Upper Manhattan, until Pete's father squandered their fortune. Which is why Pete has to work at Sterling Cooper, and marry Trudy, whose family is Nouveau Riche, but much wealthier.
  • London in an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody when her father makes a bad investment. As typical of show, she gains it back at the end of the episode.
  • Played with in Odd Mom Out when a Ponzi scheme costs several of the ultra-rich in Manhattan millions. Keeping with the show's sarcastic tone, many of these people are still incredibly wealthy but consider falling into a slightly lower tax bracket to be the same as poverty. For example, one man goes to a grief counselor for his yacht while a woman seriously compares having to decide which property to sell off to Sophie's Choice.
    • It's mentioned that hospitals in New York are now filled with people suffering burns and cuts from having to make their own meals for the first time.
    • Played straight with main character Jill's mother-in-law who invested nearly everything in this fund and now has to live with Jill and her family (and clearly no idea how to handle a life without servants).
  • In Bones, Hodgins is hacked by Pelant and is forced to choose between saving his family fortune or saving a school for girls in the middle east from a UAV strike. Naturally he chooses to save the school.
  • The Bluths of Arrested Development go this way in the series' first episode. Mitch Hurwitz even pitched the show as "a riches-to-rags family".
  • Silvana Sin Lana is a telenovela about an upper-class woman named Silvana who is forced to move to the suburbs with her mother and daughters after her her husband gets into trouble with the law and runs off.

  • The page quotation is the song "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan.
  • The Rolling Stones song "Playing with Fire:"
    Your old man took her diamonds / And tiaras, by the score / Now she gets her kicks in Stepney / Not in Knightsbridge anymore
  • This is a common plot in opera, where the fall usually comes about as a punishment for women sleeping around. Examples include La Traviata and Manon (in the latter, the woman starts out as a commoner and becomes a rich mistress of a noble, but then falls toward poverty again when she cheats on said noble with her true love).
  • Van Halen in "As Is":
    Yesterday I was a bum and broke.
    Today I am a star and broke.
    In this town that's called progress,
    That's how we do biz.

     Mythology And Religion  
  • The Dutch folk tale about the Lady of Stavoren is all about this trope.
  • Classical Mythology has Jason, who was hailed as a hero and earned a lot of riches after his quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece with the Argonauts. Then he made some really dumb mistakes, chiefly dumping his wife Medea, who proceeded to destroy everything Jason attained in one swift blow, from riches to even future family, and the Gods thought that it was Jason's fault to get callous and ungrateful, thus the celebrated hero was reduced into a beggar who eventually died on the rubble of his ruined old ship while reminiscing his past glory days.

  • In King Lear, the eponymous Lear goes from King to a mad beggar wandering the streets of his own kingdom in a few short scenes.
  • Les MisÚrables: Although the Thenardiers aren't too wealthy to begin with, somewhere between selling Cosette to Valjean and the "present day" of 1832, they fall hard into poverty, being essentially reduced to begging (and thievery). This is especially apparent in Eponine, who in one scene has attention called to her nice clothing (especially compared to Cosette's literal rags), and in the next is wearing something not unlike what the impoverished Cosette was wearing earlier.
    • Fantine too undergoes a minor riches-to-rags story as part of her Trauma Conga Line. One day she's working in a factory to help her daughter, the next she's selling her body (not only through prostitution, but also through literally selling her hair and teeth).

     Video Games  
  • Dragon Age II has this in Hawke's backstory: the Amell family, of whom Hawke's mother, Leandra, is a member of, was wealthy and influential in the city-state of Kirkwall before Hawke's uncle Gamlen gambled away the money when he became patriarch, since Leandra left for Ferelden. Upon returning to Kirkwall, Leandra and her children were impoverished refugees who had to rely on the begrudging goodwill of Gamlen and money Hawke made in the city's Wretched Hive to survive before a Deep Roads expedition made Hawke enough money to move on up in Kirkwall society.
    • The first game does this with the Human Noble origin (in which the death of their family and their conscription into the Grey Wardens causes them to be much poorer), the Dwarven noble origin (in which they are disowned due to circumstances beyond their control), and the Human Mage origin (the human mage being a part of the aforementioned Amell family, who cannot ever inherit their titles due to being a mage) — depending on how you play the game, however, they can all earn back their wealth and status and then some.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, there's a rich man and a poor man, both of whose daughters (named Mila and Maggie respectively) have been kidnapped by the Big Bad. You rescue the daughters about halfway through the game, and the rich man gives his fortune to the pirates who took the credit for their rescue, while the poor man makes his fortune selling rare necklaces his daughter brings home.
  • This can occur in Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition and Harvest Moon DS if you marry Lumina. She goes from being living in a mansion with her rich grandmother to living down the road as a farmer's wife. You can become wealthy if you are a good enough farmer but the game still treats it as this.
  • One of the Survivors in Dead by Daylight, Jake Park, fled from the pressure of his high-class upbringing to live as a hermit in the woods.
  • In Thief: The Dark Project, Garrett meets a strange man named Raoul. Once the wealthy owner of the local opera house, Raoul took to living in the sewers after losing ownership of the opera house.
  • In the Killer Instinct 2013 reboot, Tyler-John "T.J Combo" Garrett was a celebrity millionaire boxer who used secret Ultratech cybernetic implants to improve his punching power. When his cheating was caught out, he was left disgraced and lost everything he had. Now he's back in the tournament, no implants this time, to restore his honour.
  • As revealed in his comic, the Leper of Darkest Dungeon was once a royal king or prince who chose to exile himself from his homeland to partner up with the other heroes after contracting leprosy.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Because of the events of the second game, the Lodge of Sorceresses has been disbanded and most of them have gone into hiding. Triss Merigold has gone from being the court advisor to King Foltest of Temeria to leading an Underground Railroad from a seedy ramshackle apartment in a bad corner of Novigrad, hiding from the city witch hunters. Keira Metz is similarly left posing as a common village white witch in the countryside outside the city (and being Keira Metz, she hates every minute of it).

     Web Comics  
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Västerström family underwent such an episode some time before the story started. Getting that status back by selling precious Old World books on the black market was the motivation behind Torbjörn organizing the expedition, while the same episode caused Emil to discover that his expensive private tutors actually hadn't educated him that well, causing him to drop out of academia and join the military.
  • Freefall: Mr. Kornada, following his boneheaded attempt to subvert a patch program into a robot-lobotomizing Final Solution purely for personal gain, is tried and found guilty. His cash assets started at twelve million credits; the Mayor sentences him to an eleven million fine, and seals the remaining million in a trust fund Kornada can't touch until he completes the second half of his punishment - a thousand days of working at a Cricket Burger. Only days in which his evaluation exceeds "Average" will count towards the goal, by the by.

     Web Original  
  • Whateley Universe: When Ayla Goodkind was first disowned by his family for being a mutant, he was forced to live with his equally blackballed sister Gracie (who had been his brother Greg before coming out as a Transsexual); the shock of middle class realities were crushing to him, and left a mark on him even after they managed to wrest a portion of his due inheritance from the family (a mere $300 million, which at first seemed a mere pittance to him compared to the billions he was raised to expect). Ayla's brief brush with poverty is best summed up in his own words:
    I spent my whole life being groomed to be... Well, something I can never do now. I had a couple weeks of living in someone's basement and eating Hamburger Helper, and it just about killed me.
  • The Thrilling Adventure Hour segment, "Down in Moonshine Holler", after falling in love with a hobo woman, features, millionaire Jasper Manorlodge renounces his riches and becomes hobo Banjo Bindlestuff to try and find his Hobo Princess.
  • In The Grossery Gang webseries, Stinky used to be a wealthy Grossery back when he was much younger, but lost it all, along with his girlfriend, when he was swindled by his former best friend. He attempts to warn the newly rich Ricardo of the risky ventures he's taking, but he only gets brushed off. Stinky would later regain his fortune via Ricardo losing his by putting all of his stock in lotto tickets that get lost or destroyed...with the remaining winning one landing in Stinky's reach.

     Western Animation  
  • Zander Crews in the opening episodes of the second season of Frisky Dingo — he's gone from the head of a company with billions of dollars to living in a refrigerator box. At least until he remembers to regain the check from Killface.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Homer visits his Long Lost Brother Herb, who is the head of a Detroit car company, Homer ruins Herb by designing a terrible car. A later episode has him regain his fortune (with the help of an investment from Homer).
    • In another episode, when Homer and Marge decided to seek tutors in case they don't live long enough to see all their children reach adulthood, it was revealed Herb went broke again.
    • Mr. Burns in "The Old Man and the Lisa".
      Kent Brockman: Excuse me, Mr. Burns, now that you're completely ruined, how do you feel?
      Burns: Excellent. I'm on my way back to the top! I've turned these cans into can-dos!
      Brockman: Well, you smell terrible — Good luck to you, sir.
    • Brenda, of the Lifetime TV movie "From Homemaker to Homeless". She later went to Harvard Medical School — as a cadaver.
  • The Boondocks episode "Bitches to Rags" is all about Thugnificent going through this after several unwise moves on his part sink his singing career. Which in turn leads to the loss of his wealth to debt collectors. Unlike most examples, he never regains his fortune and is forced to take a minimum wage job to survive. He doesn't really seem too broken up about it though.
  • The Hey Arnold! episode "Rhonda Goes Broke". One of the strongest examples of Status Quo Is God in the series.
  • An episode of Doug features Bebe losing her fortune.
  • The Series Finale of As Told by Ginger features the Griplings losing their fortune when Mr. Gripling was arrested for insider trading.
  • The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat: The episode "Bet a Billion Bill" featured a gambler named Billy. He was wealthy and lucky until a black cat (Felix) crossed his path. In "Viva Lost Wages", Billy stole Felix's magic bag and used it as a charm to regain his fortune. Once Felix recovered the bag, it didn't take long before Billy returned to the poorhouse.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: Miles Duntcheck at the end of "The Haunted Sonata" once it was revealed his famous ancestor stole the sonata that gave their family Royalties Heir status. It's mentioned the loss of the fortune drove him insane.
  • An Al Brodax Popeye cartoon has Wimpy go through this. He inherits a fortune and wagers it all against Popeye in a boxing match. Wimpy is assured to win his wager since he's the referee. But after seeing Popeye get KO'd (through his own machinations), Wimpy doesn't have the heart to count his old pal out, so he gives Popeye some spinach, Popeye knocks out his opponent, and Wimpy loses his fortune.
  • Played with in Gravity Falls. Pacifica Northwest and her family end up losing most of the fortune in a bad investment during the Weirdmagedon. While it didn't sink them entirely and they still quite wealthy, they had to sell their manor in order to stay afloat and are now Moderately Rich instead of Obscenely Rich. They still consider it as if it's a massive loss, however. Ironically McGucket the town's local hobo, was the one to buy their house due to regaining his smarts and selling his technology.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (2016) ep, Poorbucks, had this happen to Princess when a bad investment tanks her family's stock and she's forced to stay with the girls while her father "lays low". She regains it at the end by stealing Blossom's lemonade recipe and turning it into a franchise. Though at the least showed she did have some good in her by calling off her attack on the girls once she got her money back and keeping the present Blossom made for her.

     Real Life  
  • Mike Tyson had earned over $300 million during his career as a boxer but had to file for bankruptcy, thanks to his colourful variety of debts including $13.4 million to the IRS and a $9 million divorce settlement to his ex-wife, Monica Turner. From 1995 to 1997, he spent $9 million in legal fees, $230,000 on pagers and cellphones, and $410,000 on a birthday party. In June 2002, he owed $8,100 to care for his tigers and $65,000 for limos.
  • This also happened to MC Hammer. During the late-1980s and early-1990s he was one of the most successful rappers on the planet (as well as being the first rapper to achieve mainstream popularity), but by the mid-1990s the public had grown bored of Hammer's upbeat, poppy rap style. Combined with the large amounts of money he was spending on friends and family, he eventually found himself $13 million in debt. In 1996 he declared bankruptcy. Since then he has unsuccessfully attempted a few times to revive his music career, but has mainly been working as a Christian minister.
  • Hip-hop producer Scott Storch was once worth $70 million, blowing his fortune on cocaine, celebrity girlfriends, a mansion, a yacht, jewelry, and private jets. He allegedly spent $30 million in a six-month period alone. Soon afterwards, Storch went to rehab, and was later charged for grand theft auto failing to pay child support. Storch's mansion was later repossessed, and he filed for bankruptcy in June 2015, with only $3,600 in assets (cash, clothes, and a watch).
  • This often happens to former nobility and royalty as the result of a revolution.
    • For example, the French royal family after they were imprisoned during The Reign of Terror. The Jacobins running the prison basically did everything they could to make them as uncomfortable as possible and humiliate them.
    • After the Russian Revolution, this happened to Czar Nicholas Romanov and his family, as well as the entire aristocracy and capitalist class.
  • This often happens to people who win lotteries. Lotto winners often come from middle- or lower-class backgrounds and have no experience managing large amounts of money. As a result, many of them do not regulate their spending and end up broke (or worse, millions of dollars in debt) within a few years; if they're at least careful about their spending, there's still always the possibility of being hit repeatedly with lawsuits (usually meritless, but taking even one to court can take giant bites out of even the most substantial of fortunes, making settlements the more viable option by a long shot; this, unfortunately, only serves to embolden parasitic people). Shady accountants are another thing that can bring them down; while they will eventually get caught when a discrepancy gets noticed somewhere, they can funnel immense amounts of money away over a long period of time and cause tons of other problems.
  • An alarmingly high number of professional athletes, despite making millions during their careers, have found themselves broke less than ten years after retirement, be it due to alimony/child support, failed business ventures, shady accountants, or simply their excessive lives catching up to them.
  • British football team Leeds United endured this in the mid-2000s. After being Champions League semifinalists in 2001, they failed to make the next two tournaments, losing out to Liverpool and Newcastle respectively. After the second instance, the huge loans taken out to finance the transfer fees and player wages caught up with them (said loans had been dependent on Champions League football 'every season) and they were relegated in 2004 after going into administration. In 2007, they went into administration again and were relegated to the third tier of English football.
  • This blog post describe how Suburbia families' lifestyles went down when the value of their house, which they used as a collateral in equity, went down with the housing crisis.
  • In the early 1970s, Terry-Thomas was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. But by the early 1980s, his medical expenses grew so high that he was forced to sell his estate and many assets to pay for his treatments and moved into affordable housing. By 1989, his plight was so dire that fellow comedians Jack Douglas and Richard Hope-Hawkins organized a benefit concert to help him. With its proceeds, Terry was able to move into a nursing home, where he died in January 1990.
  • This can happen to entire countries.
    • Haiti was considered the most lucrative of all New World colonies until the late 1700s. France could cut its losses of North American colonies in the Seven Years War and sustain itself on the sugar plantations of Haiti alone. It was run by a tiny class of white and mixed race slaveowners who could lord it over the slaves on the sugarcane and coffee plantations. Then came two decades of near constant war that ended with an independent Haiti and (at least nominally) free blacks - the first time in history a slave rebellion resulted in an independent Republic led by former slaves, but France imposed huge reparations on the newly independent nation, pushing it into economic problems it never fully escaped from.
    • Argentina on the other hand was considered among the richest countries on earth in the late 19th century and it was about as desirable a place to emigrate to as the US from the standpoint of many Europeans. However, a mixture of corruption, incapable politicians and bad luck led to Argentina declaring bankruptcy in the late 20th century. Argentina is once again modestly wealthy, but nowhere near the position in the world it enjoyed during its heyday.
    • India was once among the richest nations of the world with several Indian states having more gold than anyone imagined a single place could store. The likes of Marco Polo who came all the way to South India was agog at the wealth of the Tamil Kingdoms. Until the 1700s, India had a monopoly on the Diamond Trade, the crown jewels of every Crown in Europe came from the diamonds of Indian mines and Indian spices and textiles were highly prized and it maintained lucrative trade with Europe from the Roman Empire onwards. Two centuries of British colonialism followed by post-independent malaise, Indians are far from being among the wealthiest nations in the world (though it is among the world's growing economic powers), and is famous around the world for massive poverty (as evidenced by the success of films like Slumdog Millionaire), corruption and high mortality rates. Its educated urban middle class emigrates in large numbers to serve in Western countries leading to a Brain Drain with India struggling to make its exports match its imports, a situation that is entirely the reverse of its economic condition in the early 1700s.
    • China was legendary for its wealth and riches. Its porcelain products had long commanded envy and high demand by the Europeans who devoted a great deal of time and effort to copy and reverse engineer it. The Chinese government had a distinct policy of a tribute system whereby all who wanted to treat with the Emperor had to submit to be its vassal, a system followed by Dutch traders who came earlier. The English, having greater demand for Chinese products and wanting preferential treatment refused to play along, and responded negatively to the fact that the Chinese didn't think they had anything that interested them: China was among the richest countries in the world, it had a very efficient agricultural sector, a large population and produced goods like silk or tea that the whole world wanted. The only thing the Europeans could give in exchange was silver and gold. The British, or rather the East India Company, instead formed the world's first, and largest and most successful, drug cartel, by producing opium cheaply in India and thus reduce the trade deficit. China of course wanted to stop this for several obvious reasons, but when they did in the Opium Wars, it was the beginning of a Shocking Defeat Legacy of unequal treaties and colonization of coastal cities into spheres of influence, much looting and violence that saw the destruction of several villages, Monumental Damage and widespread looting that ended with China losing to Japan, ending with No More Emperors and China seen as an ungovernable backwater nobody needed to care about, and giving the Chinese a strong desire to get back on top and turn the tables. This has turned around quite a bit in the last half century or so.
  • Robert Morris was a merchant and investor whose name was synonymous with 'wealth' during the final years of Colonial America. When the Revolutionary war came about, he took on a managerial role of the rebel army's resources, earning the unofficial title of "Financier of the Revolution". After the war, Morris, who was poised to become one of the wealthiest men in the world, engaged in aggressive land speculation, passing up on urban properties that would become central business districts to buy vast stretches of wilderness that would remain vast stretches of wilderness. His finances collapsed and his resulting stint in prison became a national embarrassment.