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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds Paperback – October 22, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

As with any true classic, once it is read it is hard to imagine not having known of it--and there is the compulsion to recommend it to others. --<A HREF=/exec/obidos/Author=Tobias%2C%20Andrew/${0}>Andrew Tobias

About the Author

Charles Mackay (1841-1889) was born in Perth Scotland. His mother died shortly after his birth, and his father, who had been in turn a Lieutenant on a Royal Navy sloop (captured and imprisoned for four years in France) and then an Ensign in the 47th foot taking part in the ill-fated Walcheren Expedition where he contracted malaria, sent young Charles to live with a nurse in Woolwich in 1822.

After a couple of years’ education in Brussels from 1828-1830, he became a journalist and songwriter in London. He worked on The Morning Chronicle from1835-1844, when he was appointed Editor of The Glasgow Argus. His song The Good Time Coming sold 400,000 copies in 1846, the year that he was awarded his Doctorate of Literature by Glasgow University.

He was a friend of influential figures such as Charles Dickens and Henry Russell, and moved to London to work on The Illustrated London News in 1848, and he became Editor of it in 1852. He was a correspondent for The Times during the American Civil War, but thereafter concentrated on writing books.

Apart from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, he is best remembered for his songs and his Dictionary of Lowland Scotch.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Reprint edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1463740514
  • ISBN-13: 978-1463740511
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A. Popular Delusions is a truly great book.
B. But be careful which of the many offerings you buy.

First off, many of the editions in Amazon are partial reprints of the original 1841 edition. Anything with 200 or so pages is badly incomplete. The book you want must have all 16 chapters.

Second, most of the print editions, especially those claiming about 400-odd pages, are complete, but have type so small as to severely limit your reading pleasure. You must understand there is no copyright protection for the original English author so anyone can rip it off, and to make the most money many of these "artists" try to print as few literal pages as possible. The two editions I have bought (in 1967 at a bookstore and 2003 on Amazon), both published in London, have about 700 pages, including the dozen or so original hand illustrations. This is the print edition you want.

Third, to solve the type-size problem, acquiring a Kindle edition can be a good answer. It can also be priced as cheaply as 99 cents or even 0. But beware of what it contains as well. When I clicked on the Kindle version of a complete 16-chapter print version (the one on which I am writing this review) it turned out that the free Kindle version was shorted to just a few chapters, which I was able to discover only after I downloaded it
.
Fourth, the completely independent book, Gustave Le Bon's "The Crowd", originally published in 1895 is equally worth reading.

You'll love both books; make sure you actually enjoy them and get the whole things, as well.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
History repeats itself, making this book well worth reading. Financial scams recur because people don't remember the past.

To quote John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist: "There's nothing unique about this. It is something which happens every 20 or 30 years because that is about the length of the financial memory. It's about the length of time that it requires for a new set of suckers, if you will, a new set of people capable of wonderful self-delusion to come in and imagine that they have a new and wonderful fix on the future."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This Kindle edition consists of two long volumes, published in 1852. It details various mass delusions and obsessions, varying from hair styles to the crusades to financial crises to the burning of witches - and much more.

I enjoyed this book immensely, despite its length, but found it to be unsettling. The details of each of the many events covered are different, but there is an underlying theme that should be a warning to modern man. The author points out that the madness that periodically breaks out among the masses would, hopefully, be less in the future. If only he knew that these follies would continue up to the present day.

Each of the events he described had the same pattern:

Firstly, some individual or small circle of individuals would make a claim. The purpose could be profit, vengeance, or superstition.

Secondly, some larger segment of society (such as the Church, stock jobbers, etc.) would proclaim a societal emergency or, even, a great opportunity.

Thirdly, the masses would adopt, unquestioningly and illogically, the truth of the original claim, often twisting the claim in a manner the originators would not have imagined or possibly approved.

Fourthly, more reasonable men or organizations would be shunned or punished as heretics for failing to accept the popular delusion.

Lastly, the folly would become so reprehensible or unsustainable that it would fade away, only (regrettably) to be replaced by another.

In our times, we consider ourselves modern and rational. Many readers might look on the examples described in this book to be so absurd as to irrelevant to our times. However, our follies follow the same pattern - sometimes more subtle but often just as costly and often more deadly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You've gotta laugh at just how stupid and gullible we are as the human race...believing any silly thing that might remotely answer the unanswerable questions in life. Prepare to be exhausted as you read story after story about homo-sapiens' inability to handle uncertainty. Excellent reading.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Classic text and very relevant today in light of the recent financial crisis. If you buy the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Reprint edition (October 22, 2013), beware that it has no pagination, making it impossible to cite to for academic work. I also note other reviews that comment on abridged editions by other publishers. So, beware. But the text is both priceless and timeless.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books of all time!!! It's amazing read this book and then to watch the media, the stock market, etc... it's like this book identifies recurring patterns that it seems to me that no even so-called experts of this day and age seem to see! It's an absolute must have to any serious investor or student of human behavior!!
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I read this book years ago in college. I remembered much of the stories but wanted to refresh my memory. I am astounded by how much I had forgotten and what people believed in during the middle ages. The burning of witches in Europe that ran for about 200 years. The scary part was that so many women accused of being witches believed they were witches. The Crusades were incredible that so many were led to their death at so many different times. Is what is happening today any different? Then there was the Mississippi Bubble where John Law started a new kind of monetary system in France based on nothing but paper and a promise that there was gold to be found up the Mississippi river and everyone would be rich. Is Wall Street today any different?. Where was Freddy Mac? When it failed the government bailed them out. Sound like GM? And of course there is the Tulip Mania when Tulip bulbs were worth more than gold. Is there any reason we are less gullible today? Is climate change just the latest Extraordinary Delusion? One will wonder after reading this classic by Charles MacKay.
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