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Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused Paperback – January 30, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For history buffs or gardeners who enjoy more than just digging in the dirt, Tulipomania presents a fascinating look at the tulip frenzy that took place in Holland in the mid-1600s. Beginning as gifts given among the wealthy and educated folk of Europe and Asia, the tulip rapidly became a source of incredible financial gain--similar to today's Internet start-up companies or Beanie Baby collections. Stories of craftsmen discontinuing their trade and focusing on raising tulips for public auction, where they sold for prices comparable to that of a manor house, are astonishing. Poets, moralists, businessmen--it seems everyone was involved at some level.

Lack of regulation and poor quality control were just a couple of the details that led to the abrupt crash in February 1637. Tulipomania was the original market bust--people were ruined, debts went unpaid. It was a disaster similar to the stock-market crash of 1929. A brief resurrection of the mania occurred 65 years later in Istanbul, and while it was not the financial obsession Holland experienced, it led to the creation of standards in flower shape and increased the development of new types. You don't need to be obsessed to enjoy this book--an interest in tulips, history, and the futures market ensures that this will be a remarkable read. --Jill Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The centerpiece of this story is a stunning two months, December 1636 and January 1637, when fortunes were made and lost in the Netherlands--in tulip bulb futures trading. Stripped to its basics, this would be a dry case study in an economics textbook. But Dash adds depth to the tale by including relevant bits of botany, sociology and history, as well as glimpses of the personalities involved in the creation of the tulip market, such as the orphans who made a fortune selling their late father's tulip bulbs and the man who owned a dozen extremely rare bulbs and wouldn't part with them at any price. Occasionally, he provides too much detail--his descriptions of how many guilders changed hands in particular transactions become repetitive, as do his physical descriptions of specific tulip varieties. Dash is fascinated by the contrast between the aesthetic sense of the Ottoman sultans (reflected in their love of tulip-laden gardens) and the ferocity of their rule (evidenced by fratricide, garroting and torture), but his musings on this interesting paradox are too unfocused to be enlightening. Overall, however, Dash (The Limit; Borderlands) effectively brings together a diverse mix of disciplines to illuminate the cultural, financial and psychological elements of an economic bubble--a subject that should be of great interest today. Readers interested in the technical aspects of economic speculation and those attuned to human folly will find this a worthwhile read. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (January 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 060980765X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609807651
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating view of the impact of trade on the development of culture, of the limitless capacity of humans to be petty and avaricious, of the naive and inventive efforts of gardeners who knew almost nothing about the biology of plants, and much, much more. Starting with the earliest interest in tulips in (and giving a wonderful overview of the cultural values of) ancient Turkey, the author tracks the rise in European interest, brings the tulip to the Netherlands, introduces us to the individual who all but invented gardening, explains how tulips evolved from intense red flowers to the brightly colored and varied forms they reached under Dutch cultivation, and shows how the social structure of the Netherlands (most particularly Amsterdam) set the stage for one of the great booms and busts in economic history. This ground-breaking work (no pun intended)explores this infamous event in new depth and reads like an adventure novel. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in almost anything -- it's that eclectic in its narrative scope.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a pleasure to read. It is beautifully written, well-researched and it grabs your attention right away and holds it until the very end. I think Mr. Dash realized that even though the book is relatively short, most people would have been bored if the book had only stayed with a narrow focus on tulip varieties and the economic dynamics of the brief period during which the mania flourished. The author made a wise choice by going off into little interesting peripheral areas, such as the origins of the tulip in central Asia, the cultivation of the flower by the Ottoman Turks, and some aspects of social life in 17th century Holland. Did you know that when the flower was popular in Turkey some of the Ottoman soldiers went around with tulips embroidered on their underwear? Due to the Islamic prohibition concerning the artistic depiction of people and real life objects the embroidery of the flower had to be kept "undercover", so they placed it on the underwear! I don't want to give the impression that the book is a bunch of fluff. Mr. Dash never veers too far from the tulip mania and some of the best chapters in the book concern the botanical, economic and social reasons for the stratospheric heights tulip prices reached. Due to the way tulips reproduce it took a long time for new varieties (which were the most coveted) to be produced in quantity. Trading methods that we use today, such as buying on margin and trading in futures, also helped to fuel the craze, as did the tendency of the people involved to do their trading in taverns while consuming vast quantities of beer! Oh, by the way, I do want to explain the title of this review: In 1562 a shipment of cloth which had been sent from Istanbul arrived in Antwerp.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Mike Dash's "Tulipomania" is typical of the current crop of "popular" history books. Much like Dava Sobel's "Longitude", Mr. Dash takes a narrow topic/event and dissects it in great detail, while presenting his findings in a manner that is palatable to the academic and non-academic alike. The Dutch Tulip Craze of 1636-37 is one of the most overworked stories in the world of business, but Mr. Dash does well in interweaving his narrative of the Craze with anecdotal stories of the famous and common people whose lives were affected. The description of economic conditions and everyday life are rich and detailed. (Anyone in the brewing industry will salivate at the beer-consumption figures for Haarlem in 1636!) But the book does not get bogged down in detail and keeps a fast pace. Though not as strong as "Longitude", "Tulipomania" is a worthy addition to the canon of microhistorical works.
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Format: Hardcover
Many gardeners may believe that the Dutch "created" the tulip, or that, at the very least, it was native to the region. The truth is, as we can learn from Mike Dash, that botanists introduced tulips to the Dutch after discovering them growing wild in the valleys and oases of the Pamir Mountains in Russia and the Tien Shan that border China. Out of these harsh mountains in Asia, tulips flourished and were held in high esteem by the Ottoman's and are considered sacred in the religion of Islam. By the 16th century, tulips were already being cultivated in Turkish gardens, and in the 1530s, it is rumored, Lopo Vaz de Sampayo brought the tulip to Western Europe for the first time. Over the span of another hundred years of discovery and cultivation, the tulips we know today as "Dutch" tulips were being sought after with vigor. Beautiful varieties (created, in part, by a mosaic virus) were being bought for a small fortune - and the most rare bulbs could command sums of several years' salary. More a book of incredible sociological and economic history than botanical information, Dash gives an interesting glimpse of the importance of taverns to the tulip trade and explains with detail that tulip mania is one of the earliest cases of futures trading. Although Dash's writing is occasionally repetitive, his study is a quick, easy and interesting read that can be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history of the Netherlands in the 17th century, gardening, economy or sociology.
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