Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Paperback – 26 Mar 2009
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
At times MacKay's style is a delight to read - eg the opening paragraphs to his chapter on witches. At other times, he seems to want to tell us everything he knows on a subject, and one is inclined to skip a few pages.
Not everything can be taken literally. The numbers he gives for witch burnings and hangings are hugely inflated. Wikipedia says that the real numbers for witch executions were established in the 1970s at under 100,000. In addition, the executions in Britain were almost invariably by hanging rather than burning. I don't know what else he may have exaggerated or got wrong. These are minor points however, and the book was after all written some 175 years ago when access to reliable data was patchy at best.
\for me the best chapter was that on the Crusades, about which I knew little. I think that perhaps the Crusades were the craziest schemes of all.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Got a certain charm to the language due to its age but is still very readable.Published 6 months ago by Martin
An interesting book. French and other languages are used in the book, without providing the English translation. This became really annoying. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fantastic and fantastical book ,,, can't wait to really get into it ,,,,, thank you, great seller ,,,,Published 14 months ago by Stephanie Murray
Good on disapproval.This is not a neutral history, but is fun. Very learned. Good on alchemy.Published 23 months ago by r j west
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