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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,777 ratings  ·  198 reviews
A complete repackaging of the classic work about grand-scale madness, major schemes, and bamboozlement--and the universal human susceptibility to all three. This informative, funny collection encompasses a broad range of manias and deceptions, from witch burnings to the Great Crusades to the prophecies of Nostradamus.
Paperback, excerpt, 97 pages
Published July 25th 1995 by Harmony Books (first published 1841)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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James
Aug 19, 2007 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the greatest books ever written.
First published in 1841, I think it has been in print continually ever since. Rare for a non fiction book.
I read it about once every 10 years to remind myself of mob psychology.
One of my favorite genres.
Also the author has a gift for storytelling.

About a dozen chapters, each one about a different set of events.
All examples of mob behavior.
How people can abandon critical analysis when "everyone else is doing it".
About the balance between Fear an
...more
David
In the weeks before the election, as the financial crisis spun ever farther out of control and the pundits' shrieks grew ever more shrill, I browsed through "Popular Delusions.." and found solace. Charles Mackay's extraordinary survey of the various manifestations of mass hysteria throughout history cannot help but offer perspective. He reminds us that, no matter how batshit crazy a particular fad might seem, it's already been done by our ancestors. There is truly nothing new under the sun; the ...more
Arminius
This book is quite a riveting book. The name of the book describes exactly what you might expect it to contain. “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” provides a list of history’s ridiculous schemes, fantasies, prophesies witchcraft, faith healers and more. The author then debunks the delusions by citing the proof that was published at the time of the delusion.

I will list a few a few of the stories I liked best.

The first chapter teaches us about a Scottish character named
...more
Mateo
Mark Twain once famously characterized a "classic" as "a book that everyone praises and nobody reads," and while there are plenty of classics that absolutely hold up (The Iliad, Moby Dick,, hell, most anything by Twain himself), there are plenty of others that disappoint. I waited years to finally read Don Quixote (first book only), only to find that it was pretty boring. Figured the movie M, starring Peter Lorre, was can't-miss. It missed. Gave up on Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and fin ...more
Lois Bujold
Jul 31, 2013 Lois Bujold rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
It's been too long since I've read this, but there's a reason it's been in print since 1841. Among other things, it has a classic account of the Dutch tulip mania, one of the first (but far from the last) market bubbles, and still instructive.

And I see it is now available through Project Gutenberg and for free for one's Kindle, so Amazon will be my next stop tonight.

Ta, L.
Erik Graff
Dec 24, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: business students
Recommended to Erik by: James Koehnline
Shelves: history
I was surprised and somewhat pleased to see that some business book publishers help keep this amusing work in print. The most memorable portions of it are about financial scams, panics and fads--all crazy.
Jennifer
Reading this book written over 150 years ago majes you realize how little people have changed over the course of history, right up to today. The chapter dealing with trendy phrases was particularily illustrative of this.
Anna
the remarkable story of John Law and the Mississippi Scheme is told in the language and cadence of a cautionary tale like "the Emperor's New Clothes"

South Sea Bubble

Tulipmania
Roberta
Slow and steady wins the race. This is one of those reference books that you could open once in a while, when in the mood for a bit of amusing-history-of-humanity, and then put it back on the stand and let it simmer.
So far I managed to work through the first volume and believe me, it's amazing. Mackay is an accomplished chronicler and his simple narration of events creates some subtle irony. He does make a personal comment once in a while, none of it amiss.
Things I learnt so far:
1) Futures Cont
...more
Mohammad Ali Abedi
"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

Written in 1841, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay, the book is a great fun to read. Let me just quote wikipedia, "The subjects of Mackay's debunking include economic bubbles, alchemy, crusades, witch-hunts, prophecies, fortune-telling, magnetisers (influence of imagination in curing disease), shape of hai
...more
Keith Kendall
Sep 23, 2012 Keith Kendall rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Humans
Shelves: history, psychology
I kept mentioning this book to people, but it has been over 10 years since I read it and I was forgetting what it actually contains, and so it was time to read it again. This time it was just as delightful as the first time, although I began to wonder about the value of reading endless repetitions of the folly of man.

It is a great cautionary tale about how easily we fall into error, and warns against some of the bigger errors that we have fallen into. As such, this book is valuable to remind ou
...more
Marc Lucke

I understand completely why this text was reissued: the parallels to contemporary events (like the dot-com bubble, the housing bubble, the crash of 2007 and frenzied investment in Iraqi infrastructure and petroleum projects) are so striking as to almost seem contrived. It's like history has conspired to bear out MacKay's thesis to perfection: you could hardly hope for better validation outisde of a laboratory!

The illumination cast by his thesis itself is probably worthy of a five-star rating, bu

...more
Lucy
Fairly interesting read, due to the topics it discusses.

Most interesting parts were probably the mississippi and south sea bubbles, the crusades, the witch-hunts, and the thugs.

The book is very obviously victorian – moralising tone, tendency to gloss over 'prurient' (as the book puts it) details. There is also some irony in that certain beliefs the author takes as well-established might not be so widespread today. The magnetisers was probably the most boring section; being close to the author's
...more
Ben Sutter
This book is really just a collection of notes and stories with varying levels of substantiation. Like most, I was first drawn this book because of its classic first three chapters on market speculation. These are particularly interesting, but address material well covered elsewhere (Tulipmania, South Sea Bubble, Mississippi Scheme). Pushing on through the extended section on Alchemy was particularly challenging for me - as I read about schooled intelligent minds of the past wasting their lives ...more
Ryan
written in the 1840s in england, 'popular delusions' traces mass insanity through first 1800 years of the common era in europe. crazy, widespread belief in an elixer for eternal life, a powder for the transmutation of base metals into precious ones, the foul actions of witches to blame for every malady or misfortune. as recently as the 18th century, real judges have condemned real people to burn in real fire for imaginary crimes such as 'menacing a neighbor while in the form of a cat," or "meeti ...more
Adam Hecklinger
Written in the mid 19th century I found the "old" english a bit tough to read. The book shows just how little has changed when it comes to capital markets and how irrational people can be when money (and greed) are involved. The chapter on the 17th century Dutch tulip craze summarizes the overall message rather well.
David Gross
First published in 1841, this is a chronicle of some of the more prominent lunacies ever to sweep a culture. Included are in-depth studies of The Crusades, the Dutch tulipomania, various proto-capitalist bubbles, the Euro-American witch hunts, prophets and alchemists, and slow poisoners.
Natalie
Dec 04, 2008 Natalie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've checked this book out from the library twice and have never read it. I just found out my dad owns a copy, so I'm finally going to be able to read it. I'm sure it will reinforce my already-strong belief that the majority of the populace are imbeciles.
Pinar
I really enjoy reading history books and this is no exception eventhough it is a classical investment book. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is a very old and also very contemporary book. Easy to read and enjoy.
Alessandro
Interessante. Questo libdro è sempre stato in catalogo e i capitoli sulle bolle finanziarie (La Compagnia del Mississipi, La Compagnia dei Mari del Sud, Tulipanomania)

La versione completa (in tre volumi) ha sezioni curiose e interessanti. Nel capitolo sui tormentoni linguistici di epoca vittoriana ad esempio si scopre da dove deriva il saluto che il bruco rivolge ad Alice ("Who Are You?") nel paese delle meraviglie; il capitolo sugòi avvelenamenti fa fare la consocenza con alcune trascurate fig
...more
David
This book is the vademecum of financial folly of all kinds, from tulipmania to the South Sea Bubble. The same things work in every generation, and no, we never do learn.
primokush
So far, its a page-turner! Charles MacKay's impressive work eerily reminds me that the current crisis is absolutely nothing new to our society and 100% all greed.
Al Maki
Today, July 29, 2014, Amazon has a market capitalization of $147,380,000,000 and a price/earnings ratio of 569. That is, people have one hundred forty seven billion dollars invested in Amazon and at the present rate will earn back their money in 569 years. This book is an excellent place to start if you want to understand how this could come about. Their are excellent books on the financial aspect or history of such phenomena, Galbraith or John Cassidy for example. But at bottom this is not a fi ...more
Ülkü Doğan
I have came across this book years ago when I read slaughter house five, and was planning to read it sometime since then. I finally did. but the book was very difficult to read for me, with its detailed explanations in some parts and with its old language. yet it was the most interesting book I have ever read. to observe how mob psychology works and how societies end up with different kinds of madness along with the centuries inspires reader to look at her own age and to think of 'being human' i ...more
Bugenhagen
Mostly a collection of anecdotes concerning human folly, written with lucidity and wit. Mackay's analysis is good, but sparse.

Here is an example of one of the more stellar passages:

At last the man appeared upon the scene. Like all who have ever achieved so great an end, Peter the Hermit was exactly suited to the age; neither behind it, nor in advance of it; but acute enough to penetrate its mystery ere it was discovered by any other. Enthusiastic, chivalrous, bigoted, and, if not insane, not far
...more
Andrei Gavrila
I hesitated between a 2 and a 3 star.

As always the rating system means different things to different people.

I guess I rated it a 2 star since 2 stars means on goodreads - it was ok.
Didn't like it though hence it didn't get 3 stars.

First of all looking at the title one might think that the author will actually analyse why/who popular delusions manifest themselves. He does not do that . All he does is to tell the history of remarkable events like the crusades, the alchemists, etc. But he fault is
...more
Mark Mallett
Phew, this book has a lot of words. Or maybe it just seems that way because they were written so long ago and the faded vocabulary they draw from and the faded prose they assemble into is so hard to make out.

Written in 1841 or thereabouts, this book purports to be an examination of various ways in which people en masse are subject to, as the title says, popular delusions and madnesses - delusions and madnesses that are often specifically of their time and place (e.g. witch mania or religious cru
...more
Jake Losh
Frankly, I did not find Charles MacKay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds to be all that interesting. It covers quite a lot of ground, but none of it very satisfactorily. On the one hand, it's a history of viral trends before that was a thing (well before, in fact, because this book is quite old). It has very detailed descriptions of various slang that spread throughout London at the time and on the history of various forms of fortune-telling. It even has a very long cha ...more
John Sutherland
This book, despite its age has a timeless quality to it as it keeps us alive to the stupidity of each succeeding generation with the endless delusions we get caught up in. The snag is, that we forget, and as Santayana said, 'those who forget history, are doomed to repeat it. Each succeeding generation should read this book. It covers our mistakes with 'The South Sea Bubble' possibly the first major market crash where fortunes were made and lost; Tulipmania, where certain tulip bulbs changed hand ...more
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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, Volume 1 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Volume 2 The Lost Beauties of the English Language The Witch Mania The South-Sea Bubble

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“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” 32 likes
“I never lost money by turning a profit.” 22 likes
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