Devil Take the Hindmost:  A History of Financial Speculation
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Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  498 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Is your investment in that new Internet stock a sign of stock market savvy or an act of peculiarly American speculative folly? How has the psychology of investing changed--and not changed--over the last five hundred years? Edward Chancellor examines the nature of speculation--from medieval Europe to the Tulip mania of the 1630s to today's Internet stock craze. A contributi...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Plume (first published 1996)
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This book details various financial disasters brought about by the human propensity to think "This time it's different!" Since the formation of modern capitalist economies starting in the Netherlands in the 1600s we've experienced a series of spectacular economic crashes brought about by hubris, greed and stupidity. It's hard to tell whether what is happening to our economy today is tragedy or farce when it is simply the latest in a long line of examples of how humans never learn their lesson.
Very poorly written and designed book. It is one of the few books I have picked up and have decided not to power through and finish. The author doesn't provide relevant information that is useful to the context of each chapter. He goes on and on about random things at the worst times. His writing attempts to be engaging but does a very poor job and feels like a drag to get through. He uses significant unnecessary footnotes and asterisks that destroy the flow of the book. On top of that, he name...more
In some sense, this book is more about the great human failings of Greed, 'Follow the Leader' mentality, Fear and Panic - all told through examples from the history of the stock market. To read it as a book on Speculation alone would be missing the point to some extent.

The author sums up his own book in a couple of salient quotes:
"Speculation is the name given to a failed investment and...investment is the name given to a successful speculation"
"When I was young, people called me a gambler. As t...more
I avoided this book for the longest time because of its title - it confused me. Could this book really be about the history of manias and bubbles? If so, how could it be different?
And yet, the book is brilliant.

Some of the interesting ideas I grasped:
Tulip Mania and South Sea and Railway bubbles - people love stories and people love passing on the hot potato. It is in the nature of people to behave a certain way and be a part of a herd.
The American culture was and is so different because they ha...more
Some speculators known as "panic birds" came to the market only once prices had crashed and money was scarce; they bought carefully, locked up their investments, and kept away from wall street until the next calamity struck. But they were a rare breed, and most who ventured into the financial district in the turbulent years of the 1860s became entranced by the carnival atmosphere and remained there until the last penny had been picked from their pockets. Economist half way jokingly call the "ere...more
I thought this was a great book. Mr. Chancellor did some excellent research and tied it all together very nicely while bringing it all back to the basic theme that humans have always had great propensity for greed and foolishness.

Great mix on history of financial markets, psychology of speculation and biggest bubbles of all times. Three main lessons for me:
- roots, motives and patterns for excessive speculation were always same, from Ancient Rome until today
- If it's too good to be true- it's a bubble (unfortunately, desire for more wins against logic)
- British and American industrial revolution, technological discoveries and creation of big companies were accompanied by large-scale scams, fraud, insider trading, corrupt...more
A pretty good overview of the history of markets and speculation, although a bit one-sided. The key lesson we are to take away is that we consistently repeat our past stupidity by allowing (or even enabling) speculative investing in somewhat shaky markets. The authors spend more time on this aspect of the issue, rather than really analysing the tension between the competing needs for market freedom and regulation.
Also, we are, generally speaking, stupid gamblers (vegas, anyone?) so part of me re...more
Jun 13, 2011 May rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: finance
Chancellor does a great job of providing a historical perspective of various panics and manias throughout history. He draws a number of parallels and suggests signposts for irrational exuberance. He also is good enough to include what actually happened in the market place at various times of turmoil. For example, few realize that the market actually rallied aggressive during the market collapse of 1929 before it's final mia culpa.

One of the easier reads that one should add to a list to learn th...more
Well-written and well-researched. Very interesting in light of further events -- this is from 1998, pre-dating both the tech bust and the 2008 financial collapse, and the author makes some prescient predictions. (As well as, it must be said, some extremely wrong-headed recommendations.)

The chapters on the Gilded Age and the early London stock markets, in particular, should serve as a useful antidote to the belief that markets free from burdensome regulation naturally form some kind of libertari...more
Chock full of all the classic bubbles: the Dutch tulip bulb craze, the south seas bubble, and more modern speculative silliness. Through repetition of what we might now think of as stupidity on the part of the investing public, Chancellor chronicles how people could get so caught up in such rampant speculation. I of course also enjoyed that it was published in 1999, and that most of what is covered historically is repeated yet again not much later during the collapse of the internet/tech bubble.
David R.
There's a good amount of information on historical speculation, especially between 1600 and 1900. The book is weakened by the progressive shrillness of the author who injects his hard feelings about the 1990s into every discussion. Nor are there really meaningful ideas on how to lock down the speculation impulse. Chancellor more or less throws up his hands.
excellent review of the history of speculation in financial and other (eg commodity, real estate etc.) markets. makes one realize that while speculation serves a purpose it periodically goes hyperbolic resulting in significant financial catastrophes. this book covers from the 1600s through the late 1900s, but does not contain an analysis of the famous "technology bubble and crash of 2000. this is very readable and really anyone that has money invested in any way should read it.
Arif Widianto
I found this book on very cheap sale, it's indeed a true great reading! I read it around 2003.

you discovered very interesting economic history from Tulipomania through the era of Clinton economic downfall.

Reading this, and compared to what happened in current global downfall. You got the best guess!
If every citizen of the world read this book, I still think we would be in the same world economic mess we are witnessing today anyway.
It might make some pause. So the few, in the future, will have taken heed.
If I did not have such a backlog of books, I would re-read this one.
Not badly written, but I lost interest in the topic. However, It did go far to prove that history does repeat itself in an economic forum as well...No real surprises there.
Nice historical overview. Well researched. Bottom line, our generation did not invent the wheel when it comes to excess leverage during speculative manias. As with all histories we ignore what has come before at our peril.
Oct 15, 2013 Shayne rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shayne by: Bogleheads
Shelves: real-book
A little dry in places, but the author does a good job of chronicling the similarities between the various bubbles of financial history. Though slow going at times, it left me glad to have read it.
Edward Pok
gives a good replay of historical financial manias/bubbles. i liked the analysis of the sentiment and public mindset during the manias. history doesnt repeat itself, but it often rhymes :)
History of financial speculation, from 17th century Dutch tulip mania to the internet boom
Ali Mossadeghi
great book that takes a look at the psychology of how bubble markets are formed
John Lilly
I think this book was okay, but I remember it as being pretty slow.
Curtis Bentley
A good summary of major speculative bubbles in modern times.
Nick Tredennick
Amazing story of historical abuse in equity markets.
fascinating and scary
Apr 16, 2010 David added it
from motley fool
More cowbell!
Fe marked it as to-read
Jul 28, 2014
João Ritto
João Ritto marked it as to-read
Jul 28, 2014
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