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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Wordsworth Reference) Paperback – 5 Jun 1995

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions; New edition edition (5 Jun. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853263494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853263491
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.6 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 from 1835-1844, 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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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Whiteside on 14 May 2006
Format: Paperback
For a book so old, Extraordinary Popular Delusions is still a very easy read (untranslated French aside) and very relevant to the modern day. It traces the origins of "animal magnetism" for example, still around as magnet therapy bracelets and so on, and an excellent example of the conditions which lead people to believe the bizarre. The section on the Alchymists is a real highlight: a history of the field told through potted biographies of its practitioners, covering both the real and legendary aspects of their lives and characters.

The tone is dryly witty with a subtle sarcasm, and once you push through the unengaging subject matter of the opening three chapters (the first two covering fairly similar financial schemes, and the third the "Tulipomania") it's an amazingly compulsive read.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 April 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is an entertaining review of a number of popular crazes that occupied the minds of the English during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some of its subjects are well known but others, like the passion for the catchphrase "What a shocking bad hat!", now long forgotten. Although around a hundred years old this book's continuing relevance is demonstrated almost daily by the proliferation of fads, crazes and popular delusions in our own time. It is pleasing to reflect that in another century such modern preoccupations as crop circles, alien abductions and satanic ritual abuse will appear as bizarre and absurd as duelling, tulipomania and the South Sea Bubble do now.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By philstuart on 18 April 2009
Format: Paperback
First, ignore the review that says 'This edition only contains extracts on John Law, the South Sea Bubble, and the Tulip mania in the Netherlands...'. That review relates to a different edition. This paperback edition contains all the sections referred to in the summary. The content is wide ranging, from financial manias to the Crusades, witch trials, poisonings and so on, so it's a fascinating selection. My only warning would be that the book was written nearly 200 years ago, so the language and style is a bit archaic nowadays. The author is prone to 19th century meandering thoughts on the nature of man and his behaviour, when you just want him to get on with telling the story! Well worth a try though.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 April 1997
Format: Paperback
Remember when you were in 8th grade and a cool saying was making its way around? Knowing the saying made you feel cool. How cool do you feel when you hear that in 18th century London, for four months the word "Coz!" would reduce bystanders to giggling lumps of jello? Why? "Coz!"
Feeling good about the stock market? Can't suffer more than a 20% correction, right? Because all the experts say so. You'll feel so much "better" after learning of the 17th century "tulip" market.
This book teaches you, in hilariously engaging fashion, with a voice speaking across the centuries, that fads are part of the human condition, not a 20th century phenomenon. Read it and learn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mariusz Skonieczny on 15 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
I wanted to read this book to learn more about our current financial crisis. And I learned that if you think that the current financial crisis is an extraordinary event and our government will place proper regulations to prevent this from happening again, then you can keep on dreaming, or read this book instead. You will learn that manias such as what we experienced in the housing market and during the internet bubble are nothing new.

In this book, the author takes readers through the history all types of manias such as The Mississippi Scheme, The South Sea Bubble, and The Tulipomania. I found it amazing that we are no different from people 300 years ago. We are greedy and irrational and looking for quick ways to get rich. And unfortunately, we do not learn very well from history. This book is fabulous and I found it very interesting.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Too many books on 4 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Harriman House edition is an abridgement, or to be more precise, an excerpt of the more juicy bits of the book. The original 3-volume book covers many subjects with plenty of gentle 19th-century musings. This edition only contains extracts on John Law, the South Sea Bubble, and the Tulip mania in the Netherlands, in a very slim little pocket volume.

The edition however looks and feels fine, and would perhaps do as a present to someone who is unlikely to be seriously interested in reading the book, but more in browsing it in a casual leisure moment, and having it sit on their coffee table or their living room bookshelf.

This fact is, shall we say, not immediately obvious from the blurb on Amazon.
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Format: Paperback
For those of a sceptical turn of mind,whose view of human affairs is even somewhat jaundiced,this book will appeal immensely.There,rolled out for our delectation is a register of some of the more ridiculous,absurd,insane,purblind and just plain stupid ideas and phantasies which have absorbed the human mind down the ages.Religion,financial schemes,alchemy-that perennial,the philosopher's stone is well treated,philosophy,altruism and philanthropy;very little escapes the eye or wit of the author.
Long before the term Political Correctness was invented men and women were doing their utmost to compel their fellowman to conform to what they considered to be the only way forward.And,if any one should flatter themselves that we,educated,broad-minded,tolerant and politically aware are any improvement on our predecessors then take a good,long look at the present situation.From climate change to multi-culturalism;from the belief in the UN as the harbinger of peace and tranquillity to wind farms;from islamic jihad as a means of securing entry into paradise to creation from design.All beliefs held by millions:whether they are true or not is of no matter;they are beliefs held just as sincerely as those of yesterday.
This book should be compulsory reading in all schools;it could blow away some of the cobwebs.I recommend it.
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