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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Wordsworth Reference) [Paperback]

Charles Mackay
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 1995 Wordsworth Reference

This Wordsworth Edition includes an exclusive Introduction by Professor Norman Stone.

This classic catalogue of some of the more outré enthusiasms - speculative, social, religious and just plain daft - serves as a salutary reminder that the follies of mankind are not unique to the modern world.

Whenever struck by campaigns, fads, cults and fashions, the reader may take some comfort that Charles Mackay can demonstrate historical parallels for almost every neurosis of our times. The South Sea Bubble, Witch Mania, Alchemy, the Crusades, Fortune-telling, Haunted Houses, and even ‘Tulipomania’ are only some of the subjects covered in this book, which is given a contemporary perspective through Professor Norman Stone's lively new Introduction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (1 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 (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining review of half-forgotten crazes. 9 April 1999
By A Customer
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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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable and very relevant 14 May 2006
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting content, archaic style 18 April 2009
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People never change 21 April 1997
By A Customer
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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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars should be read by everyone 15 May 2010
This book should be given a read by everyone. Some of the crazes he writes about are boggling to the mind, it is hard to take it in that they happened at all. We are a crazy species and this book shows just how crazy we can get if we arn't careful. If they included this in the school curriculum I don't think people would be easily manipulated by modern crazes and political propaganda etc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are no different from our ancestors 15 Nov 2009
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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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bible for Skeptics Everywhere! 7 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This is a wonderful book. Although 161 years old, it could describe trends in 2002 - irrational exuberance in the stock market, astrology, Psychic Friends Network - you get the point. Worth reading for the Crusades and Witch Mania histories alone. Some of the evil done in the name of religion will shock you!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars History Repeats
Our financial mess has all happened before.
This guy worked it all out centuries ago. Required reading for all investors.
Published 5 months ago by Graham O.
4.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading
So many of the mistakes we make these days could have been prevented if the people making them in banking, and any job which requires valuation, had read this book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bibu
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read.
In the light of modern obsessions that have very wide interest and social impact it is quite fascinating to look back at past examples and to do so from a point in time closer to... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Grant P
5.0 out of 5 stars For critical thinking and scepticism
A well-known precursor to Carl Sagan's 'The Demon-Haunted World', this is a good exposition of the perils of ignoring sceptical thought and not exercising critical thinking... Read more
Published 11 months ago by N.Nezvanova
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This book was produced in the early Victorian era and when read one wonders what has changed. We see the world in which crowds riot and protest about almost anything. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Small Volume, Big Lessons
This is an extract from the book of the same name and covers three episodes: the Mississippi Scheme, The South Sea Bubble and Tulipomania. Read more
Published on 6 July 2011 by demola
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD READ
This book goes to show that fads are not a modern thing and have been going on for hundreds of years.A fascinating insight into the crazes of yesteryear
Published on 26 Nov 2010 by kerrsy
1.0 out of 5 stars Wordsworth Reference Series
The print font in the Wordsworth Reference Series paperback is so small it gives me a headache reading half a page. Read more
Published on 31 Oct 2010 by martke
5.0 out of 5 stars The Human Comedy
For those of a sceptical turn of mind,whose view of human affairs is even somewhat jaundiced,this book will appeal immensely. Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2010 by Mr. T. D. Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars Same as it ever was. Sheeple havent changed much.
What a brilliant book! It is quite hard to put down as sometimes it feels a bit like reading a history of the PRESENT in the future. Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2009 by derestricted
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