Voila! Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay.

The truth is, having been written in 1841, and in England, it does not read like John Kenneth Galbraith. Apart from the odd spellings, there are loads of references I do not get — any more than a reader would have heard of Jerry Springer 160 years from now. Or Pokemon.

But the preface is quite short, and there is no harm in skipping straight through to the tulips.

Indeed, that’s what I’d suggest. Take a minute or two to read the preface, to meet Mackay, then jump to the tulips. Once you’re hooked, read the other two — the Mississippi Scheme and the South-Sea Bubble.

Missing from all this (97 pages in book form) are the final 627 pages. You would think they would be wonderful — how could tales of alchemists and necromancers not be wonderful? — but really they are more like lists of alchemists and necromancers. Trust me. Especially as regards money and economics, the sections I’ve posted are the ones you want to read. (For the complete book, also free, see Project Gutenberg.)

 

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