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Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused Paperback – January 30, 2001
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"A marvelous parable of greed, skullduggery, opulence, extravagance, and retribution." --Simon Singh, author of Fermat's Enigma
"Irresistible." --Philadelphia Inquirer
Praise for Mike Dash:
"Dash writes with unabashedly cinematic flair, backed by meticulous research." --New York Times
''Dash writes the best kind of history: detailed, imaginative storytelling founded on vast knowledge." --Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Up-close, personal, and full of you-are-there detail... Dash is that rarity: a perfectionist in his research and a writer who perfectly carves out his story with a pen as sharp as a stiletto." --Toronto Globe and Mail
From the Inside Flap
Historians would come to call it tulipomania. It was the first futures market in history, and like so many of the ones that would follow, it crashed spectacularly, plunging speculators and investors into economic ruin and despair.
This is the history of the tulip, from its origins on the barren, windswept steppes of central Asia to its place of honor in the lush imperial gardens of Constantinople, to its starring moment as
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Paperback : 273 pages
- ISBN-10 : 060980765X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0609807651
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Crown; First Paperback Edition (January 30, 2001)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #256,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There are a few additions to the book that I think would significantly improve reader understanding. First, the book could benefit greatly by the insertion of maps. I was not at all familiar with the various regions of The Netherlands, for instance, which required that I find a separate source to understand the location Dash was mentioning in the book. Other maps of would have also benefited the reader (e.g., Ottoman Empire, Persia, Central Asia).
The second omission of the book are line charts or bar graphs showing the prices of specific varieties of tulips over time. While stating that the price of such-and-such tulip "doubled, doubled again, and then doubled again" is fine, a visual graphs of prices over time would clearly show the dramatic changes in price.
The book starts with a botanical and geographical history of the tulip. The flower originated in Central Asia in the vicinity of the Pamirs and Tien Shan west of China. It spread to Turkey via traders in the 13th century, then to the Balkans in the 14th and 15th centuries. It finally reached Holland around 1572. The Dutch then began breeding new varieties that were progressively more and more beautiful. For reasons that really have no logical explanation, a frenzied financial buying and selling bubble began around 1636. It was much like the famous "Mississippi Bubble" that occurred in France in the early 1700s and the British "South Seas Bubble." There was no real economic basis for it. People just thought that demand and prices could increase forever. Fortunately for the Dutch, the overall financial impact of the collapse on the national economy was minor.
Top reviews from other countries
17th century tulips, which are beautifully illustrated in these pages, were much more beautiful than those we see today. Their beauty came from flame like streaks of colour - caused by a disease which has now been eradicated. At the peak a single bulb could sell for more than the cost of 2 grand Amsterdam houses - but within weeks of the peak they had almost no value at all.
The madness of speculatory booms is clear from this account. However I found some of it a little dry - perhaps because i found this account to be a little over long in the telling
This is not Wall Street. This is Haarlem. And the trade does not centre on CDOs, CFDs and ETFs; rather the focus of traders' attentions is a small flower indigenous to a mountain range in northern China. And this is tulipomania.
It was a flower only recently introduced to the United Provinces of Northern Europe and its rise had been meteoric. Renowned for its beauty and revered for its imperfections - the most desired flowers were disease-ridden - the tulip had first found its way into the gardens of French and German aristocracy in the middle of 1500s. Charting its course from there until, in 1637, when it caused the biggest financial disaster yet known to humanity is a difficult process tackled with a degree of aplomb by Mike Dash in his short narrative on this intriguing - and increasingly relevant - phenomena.
Dash is not given an easy task; by his own admission archives lack any great depth of literature on this period of the Dutch Golden Age and contemporaneous accounts are scarce or serve as moral warnings as opposed to candid accounts of this hyper-trade. And at times this weakness in source material is evident as Dash fills pages with speculation and assumption. Based entirely on fact, however, this book would be a great deal shorter and would not play along with some of the more exaggerated claims made about the period between the summer of 1637 and the following Spring.
Dash shows a keenness for history which does not always makes itself amenable to the reader and he is often guilty of acting outside his brief when he heads off on tangents about the Dutch Golden Age, specific characters in 17th century Amsterdam, and wider commentary on the nation as a whole. Whilst it could be construed as scene-setting, the author sometimes dallies too much in the social history of what is essentially a fiercely economic occurrence.
Though what he does well is undermine the common conception that tulipomania was a true supernova which broke the back of the United Provinces and bankrupted the nation. Its economic consequences, as severe as they were, affected only a minority who had optimistically thought there was a fortune to be made in holding promissory notes pertaining to an asset as unpredictable and volatile as an unplanted bulb.
The book's greatest strength is in reinforcing the idea that the crash was caused by the ineptitude of the tulip trade's dealers. As opposed to the stockbrokers who plied their trade in a sanctioned and regulated bours, the tulip trade was handled in smoky, ale-filled taverns by drunkards and laymen with no training and little knowledge of either horticulture or economics. It was a market riddled with opportunists and tainted by fraud - there was no assurance that the bulb being bought belonged to the seller or was of a particularly cherished variety of tulip - and the entire market was built upon the frailties inherent in dealing on something which had, at the end of the day, no tangible, realisable value.
Finding a book on this fascinating period of history is a tough task in itself and this is unsurprising as there is a clear lack of primary, contemporary literature detailing precisely what happened and when to precipitate such a devastating crash. Mike Dash has accomplished the most complete modern history of the event, however, and his books stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the academic texts which document those turbulent few years.
Tulipomania is a quick read at fewer than 300 pages and it is easily digestible for those with, and those without, a firm grasp on the economics of market trading. More keenly, it serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of speculation and margin trading.
interest in Dutch painting