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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds #1-3)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,570 Ratings  ·  239 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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May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
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
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Bookshire Cat
Neuveritelna sbirka manii, blahovych predstav a projevu davove psychozy, ktere kdy zachvatily (zejmena) Evropu. Podvodne akciove spolecnosti, tulipomanie, alchymiste, hypnotizeri, travici, hony na carodejnice, krizove vypravy... je tam vsechno. Podrobne, peclive, strizlive popsane (poprve vyslo v roce 1841!). Az se me zase nekdo zepta, proc se bojim davu, odkazu ho sem. A kdyby mel nekdo chut se nad ctenim vsech tech blaznivin, co byli lidi schopni provadet a jimz byli schopni verit, shovivave p ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: dan l
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

Alisi ☆ wants to read too many books ☆
I only read the chapter on witches. Sam Harris wrote an intro to that and published it as its own little book. I didn't know what until I started the book, though. I kind of wish I'd read the whole thing.

Anyway, it was fascinating to read this. The author did a great job with it. The cases are rather horrifying and I thought it was interesting that the author wrote on the subject. This seems to be one of those things that the Church is determined to forget so you never really see much on the su
Al Maki
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. There are excellent books on the financial aspecst or history of such phenomena, Galbraith or John Cassidy for example. But at bottom this is not a f ...more
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The core ideas is great, but the presentation is very tedious. It is extremely repetitive in the examples it enumerates. You are better off reading a summary of the different categories that the author covers (e.g. financial bubbles, witch hunts, alchemy)
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.
Bernardo Kaiser
I guess the low rating is my fault, this book is written in a very victorian styles and it feels more like a reference book than one that you actually opens to read it from beginning to end. Anyway, lost interest after the 78th description of some renaissance alchemist
Will Craighead
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
lIfe changing
Nathan Frankel
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why read a book originally published in 1841 about the delusions and madness of times long gone? I think the author makes a strong case early in the work:

"Let us not, in the pride of our superior knowledge, turn with contempt from the follies of our predecessors. The study of errors into which great minds have fallen in the pursuit of truth can never be uninstructive. As the man looks back to the days of his childhood and youth, and recalls to his mind the strange notions and false opinions tha
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
M. Milner
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A charmingly dated look at frauds, hoaxsters and other chicanery, Charles Mackay's classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds, is an interesting, facinating read.

Originally written in the mid-19th century, Mackay was a Scottish writer who dabbled in poetry, journalism and even songs, but is primarily remembered these days for this massive look at the ways people get sucked into scams and hoaxes. His book covers a wide range of these, from money bubbles to witchcraft tri
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnum opus on historical fantasies in three volumes. There's no part of this I didn't like. Every book in every volume (my Gutenberg PDF has the bulk of the book in part one, followed by three more books devoted to alchemists, fortune tellers and magnetisers) is full of interesting historical stories of varying degrees of import.

It was good after hearing about tulips for so many years to finally read a detailed report, and to learn about parallels in England, France, and so on. But I also liked
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
Koen Crolla
Feb 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Charles Mackay catalogues some of the irrational fads that have gripped mankind over the years, in an effort to demonstrate that today's bullshit is neither unique nor new. Of course, his ``today'' was 1841, so his grasp on history isn't particularly reliable—which is made more painful by the completely unnecessary level of detail of his accounts—and he isn't necessarily as good at identifying irrationality as might be hoped (at one point calling belief in the afterlife ``the greatest triumph of ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The book was first published in 1841, but all the recent bubbles (Japanese real estate, dot-com, us housing bubbles) shares similarity with the older events . Plus ça change; history repeats itself because human nature doesn't change. When physicist Isaac Newton lost some fortune in his investment in the South Sea Company, he said "I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people" and warned others not mention the name "South Sea" ever again in his presence.

Most bub
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was probably the best book I've ever read, and I'm not exaggerating. It's informative, entertaining (and often hilarious), and provides insight into human nature that is just as meaningful and relevant today as it was in 1842. Despite the wide range of topics, the title describes the central theme perfectly, and MacKay describes ways that civilization has constantly been plagued with crazes and manias, and how these delusions still effect people in modern times.

He covers a wide range of top
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Must say that I was a little disappointed with this book. I thought that it be more about an analysis of the madness of crowds however it was more about telling the history behind the events.

What I didn't appreciate was the fact that the book was written over 150 years ago! The style of writing I also found difficult to follow. I didn't feel that it was particularly straight forward, it tended to get too descriptive in my opinion.

I did however enjoy the chapter about the crusades, having studied
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worldviewa
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
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
Michael Miller
Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or fantasy into which it plunges spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. So says Charles Mackay in this 1841 classic. Its as timely a topic as ever, and the examples he gives sound strangely familiar - people haven't changed. From get rich quick schemes to alchemy to fortune-telling to medical quackery to witch hunts, Mackay catalogs in encyclopedic fashion the great delusions peop ...more
Geoff Sebesta
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of very, very few books I've ever read that I thoroughly enjoyed, finished, turned to the publication date, and saw...1841???? Besides Candide and the King in Yellow I can't think of any other books that simply have not aged at all. Not one bit. If you didn't know this book was 200 years old you would not figure it out.

The content is as astounding as the style, but you can tell from the title alone whether or not you want to read this book -- it's exactly what it promises, a compendi
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book reads really well like a modern book it doesn't show its age at all. it tells stories were people got over excited about getting rich or living forever and risked everything they had in order to obtain it, sometimes even their lives and freedom.

the alchymist section was a bit long in my opinion, but it kind of brings home the fact that so many people over the centuries got drawn into this dream of finding the philosophers stone. The book is well written and is still very relevant today
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
" Anyone taken as an individual, is tolerably sensible and reasonable- as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead" - Schiller

This book was not what I expected. It is a history book that focuses on some of the more idiotic episodes in human history. Which is interesting, if a bit dry. It does not explain the mass psychology behind the madness of crowds, which is what I was hoping for. Just be warned: It is a very dense read- lots of information- and is probable best read in short burs
Aug 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was okay overall - some chapters were more interesting than others. I found the chapter on the Crusades very interesting, as I did not have much knowledge of the Crusades beforehand. Had to skip some chapters - the chapters on Alchemists, poisoners, and witch mania were too boring for me.

I felt that these chapters were a long collection of random anecdotal stories, not very tightly bound. The chapters I enjoyed were more linear and tightly integrated. Definitely better than Devil Take the Hindmo
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Charles Mackay was a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, novelist, and songwriter, remembered mainly for his book 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds'.

His daughter was English novelist and mystic Marie Corelli.
More about Charles Mackay...

Other Books in the Series

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds (3 books)
  • Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, Volume 1
  • Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Volume 2
  • Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Vol 3
“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.” 64 likes
“I never lost money by turning a profit.” 24 likes
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