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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 July 2014
Everything you ever wanted to know about tulips is here - where they came from, why there was a mania for them in Holland in the 17th century, and later in the Ottoman court, and how the bursting of the bubble in tulip prices was handled by the Dutch authourities.

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
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on 3 March 2012
A small group of overly-ambitious and self-regulating traders pool together in a cramped room, electric with frenetic energy. These men begin the process of buying and selling increasingly complicated instruments about which very few of them possess any degree of knowledge. Ordinary citizens, wowed and fascinated by the astronomical profits being made by these traders, begin to deal on their own account. Intangible assets become more valuable than bricks-and-mortar and the majority of the population remain absolutely perplexed by what exactly is being traded.
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.
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on 20 September 2017
A fascinating episode in history and one which has reminders of modern fads and follies. At times the economic content was a bit repetitive but the history of the tulip in the culture of Turkey and Holland was well explained. Good horticultural advice given, I now know why it is good to buy tulips each year rather than leaving them in the ground where they gradually disappear.
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on 22 February 2016
Vivid read, steeped in history, beautiful written, supported by tidbits and historical anecdotes, loved reading it. Will dispel your perception of tulipomania as represented in popular media and the like, lessons learnt for todays post GFC climate.
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on 21 February 2012
Have read this in real print and now in Kindle. I find it most interesting as it follows the history of tulips and what caused the financial "bubble" of the 1600's. Good idea for teenagers to read and understand. Told brilliantly and keeps your attention span. I can't believe people could have been so stupid as to sell their house for a single bulb but it was true. Anyone reading it will look at their flowers of tulips with a different look after this.
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on 24 November 2015
A very enjoyable,broadly based and well written account of the growth of a market; also sensitive to aesthetic factors leading to
interest in Dutch painting
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on 18 December 2013
surprisingly abstract, detailed novel language, find it a bit boring ,...
didn't finish it all the way, was too busy enjoying "Debt, the first 5000 years" from David Graeber
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on 26 September 2016
Loved this book.
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on 2 January 2013
Bought as a present for a garden lover and they have told me that it is great. Should ask to borrow it as it seems intriguing and look forward to read it myself.
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on 17 June 2015
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