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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Paperback – March 26, 2009
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In fact, cases such as Tulipomania in 1624--when Tulip bulbs traded at a higher price than gold--suggest the existence of what I would dub "Mackay's Law of Mass Action:" when it comes to the effect of social behavior on the intelligence of individuals, 1+1 is often less than 2, and sometimes considerably less than 0. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Charles Mackay first details France's Mississippi Scheme & England's South Sea Bubble (from the early 1700's). Then he covers the famous Dutch "tulipomania" of the 1600's. These are all enjoyable reports of financial manias and their aftermaths (though the South Sea Bubble chapter dragged on a bit). But the financial reader will be surprised when she realizes she's still only 100 pages into a 700 page book! Mackay proceeds to cover:
Alchemy - 150 pages of exhaustive (& exhausting) detail of hobbyists & serious investors who were convinced they could turn base metals into gold, if only they could find the right ancient recipe & stoke their workshop cauldrons just a little bit hotter.
The Crusades - 100 pages that prove that modern Islamic fundamentalists did not invent the idea of a "holy war". I had no idea the Crusades came out of official harassment of Y1K religious pilgrims! Remember this: If your country is being inundated with religious pilgrims, just try to think of them as a tourist opportunity. You don't want to get them angry!
The Witch Mania - 100pp. This section was unexpectedly chilling. As I read about European witch trials of the 1400s-1600s, I kept thinking of our recent satanic child abuse trials. It's all been done before: The wild unprovable accusations, including eating dead babies; trusting unreliable witnesses specifically BECAUSE of the severity of the charges; False Memory Syndrome. At least the rack & Trial by Ordeal are no longer recognized as valid forensic techniques.Read more ›
I particularly liked the chapter on witchcraft and witch hunts since it told me everything I'll ever need to know on why seemingly intelligent groups of people band together to banish or murder innocent members of society - just because they are different. Another engaging chapter deals with millennialism - the fear and dread that grips society at the end of each millennium. If you thought the end of the last one brought turbulence, you should read what happened a thousand years ago.
This book is often quoted by stock market pundits and talking heads as if it were a treatise on irrational behaviour in the financial markets. It isn't. It deals with irrational behaviour and mass stupidity in all walks of life. Five Stars.
Notice that the Harriman House edition is missing ALOT of pages.
Of the book's 740 pages, the first 100 or so deal with economic bubbles - these initial chapters are relatively engaging and easy to read. In comparison, the following 150 page are simply a LIST of famous alchemists, with a few brief anecdotes about each one. The other subjects covered later on, prophecies, fortunes telling etc. suffer from the same problem. The book contains no analysis, it merely offers a collection of anecdotes, some amusing some not.
The book is written in archaic language, with Latin and French phrases interspersed throughout it. Occasionally, entire Latin paragraphs are used with no English translation. I read a lot, and this is the first book in many years that I was not able to finish.
There is one positive thing I can say about this book: it is a fascinating example of 19th century writing. The approach to the subject matter, the narrative tone and the language used were very instructive and interesting for me. Nevertheless, I was only able to make it to page 323 before giving up. For the casual reader I would suggest more modern books on the topics covered. For example: Tulipomania by Mike Dash is a great book about the Tulip trade Bubble of 1636.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was interesting to learn about the crazy things people believed in. Many of the topics the book talked about still rings true today and will probably be as long as people have... Read morePublished 22 days ago by Peter Chang
This work is a great sweep of the irrational movements and activities that have engulfed, principally, European mankind in the last 1000 years. Read morePublished 25 days ago by T Paterson Byrne
An entertaining, and well researched historical account of popular delusions with many interesting anecdotes about colorful characters. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Big Kitty
Daughter had to purchase this book for English class. She said she enjoyed the book and had to write an essay on it.Published 1 month ago by Dennis H.