Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is an 1841 popular study of public manias by Scottish writer Charles Mackay.  

(US Edition)  (UK Edition) 

A public mania of the current day would be the recent housing bubble in the states or the overvalued DotComs everywhere.  But this author wrote of earlier crazy valuations, such as Dutch tulip bulbs:
In 1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population, even to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade. As the mania increased, prices augmented, until, in the year 1635, many persons were known to invest a fortune of 100,000 florins in the purchase of forty roots.
There are several entertaining stories of tourists mistaking tulip bulbs for something of little value and eating them or cutting them open.

You will be treated to chapters on such things as alchemy, philosophies and fortune telling, told in an entertaining style.
In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.
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