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Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation Paperback – June 1, 2000
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“An admirably researched and very well written account of speculative insanity from the earliest times to, let no one doubt, the present. Anyone contemplating a stock market venture and certainly anyone now involved should read this book.”—John Kenneth Galbraith
“The greatest hits of financial silliness recounted coherently and...gracefully...Chancellor does a fine job of capturing the atmosphere of the times.”—Forbes magazine
“Entertaining, useful, admirable scholarship...Chancellor seems to have read everything.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The subtle ways in which individual investors become drawn into crowd behavior is a much studied phenomenon, covered brilliantly...in the book Devil Take the Hindmost.”—The Daily Telegraph (London)
“The South Sea Company is one of the great bubble and crash stories. Many books have referred to it. One of the finest is Devil Take the Hindmost.”—Debashis Basu, Money Life
“[An] essential history of financial manias.”—The Observer
From the Back Cover
From the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties, from the railway mania of nineteenth-century America to the crash of 1929, from junk bonds and the Japanese bubble economy to day-traders of the Information Era, Devil Take the Hindmost tells a fascinating story of human dreams and folly through the ages.
- Publisher : Plume; Reissue edition (June 1, 2000)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0452281806
- ISBN-13 : 978-0452281806
- Item Weight : 14.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.9 x 0.91 x 8.98 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #83,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Until they don't. And that is what lies at the center of fear and greed, humankind's great motivators. (Not love and hate. Those are just variations on the same theme.)
Chancellor does an admirable job of making an incredibly boring subject human, emotional, and funny (my apologies to those who think finance and markets are super interesting—out of context they are, but relative to most other things in life, they aren't). But let's get back to what matters, Chancellor's book. He makes the subject interesting by bringing the greatest manias in history alive—tulip mania, gold, the South Seas bubble, and railroad stocks, among other more contemporary bubbles and manias.
Entertaining and highly recommended if you like history and psychology. Chancellor skillfully brings to life the psyches of the speculators as well as accurately portraying the social and political landscapes that existed when the bubbles began.
A similar book with some overlap but a somewhat different tone and style is Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, Seventh Edition .
There's not much else to say. If you're an investor, this is a must-read history of how things can go horribly wrong in financial markets.
In fact, with U.S. equities bumping against all-time high valuations (in mid-2018), this is the perfect moment to take your time and read through this book. It'll show you all the ways you might be getting swept up in speculative excess, of which you might not be aware, even if you're invested in the greatest businesses that have ever existed.
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On the other hand, I read the book from cover to cover. Why? Well, if you want a primer on the South Sea bubble, or what the heck went on in Japan during the 1980s, it's quite useful. Likewise, if you want case studies of the role of ill-advised dregulation, or regulatory capture, or con-men and blind, euphoric greed in driving bubbles, read this book. After all, you do need to know this stuff these days!
The book tries too hard to present everything, and in the end, winds up presenting nothing very well. The details in the book draw no conclusion. After reading the book you are no better off able to pick stocks than before you started. The theme of "there was a bubble; then came a crash, and people lost money" repeats itself. Other than "buyer beware" before you buy into a bubble and the hackneyed expression "history repeats itself", there was no "so what" answered in the book.