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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

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

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  4,185 ratings  ·  430 reviews
First published in 1841, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is often cited as the best book ever written about market psychology. This Harriman House edition includes Charles Mackay's account of the three infamous financial manias - John Law's Mississipi Scheme, the South Sea Bubble, and Tulipomania.
Between the three of them, these historic episodes
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Hardcover, 114 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Harriman House (first published 1841)
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James
May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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David
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
Markus
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and Madness of the Crowds
By Charles Mackay 1814-1889)
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'.

The themes of the madness of the crowds are mostly situated in the eighteenth to the nineteenth century.

The Mississippi scheme:
Louis XIV died in 1715. The heir to the throne is an infant of only seven years of age,
The Duke of
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Arminius
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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Lois Bujold
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
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Mateo
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
Stela

I am a little disappointed after reading Charles Mackay’s book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, for the title promised (to me, at least) so much! I was sure to find an extensive psychological study on the subject of crowds’ psychology, but what I found is only a (true, pretty impressive) collection of many follies crowds had been prey of over time, accompanied by some candid comments from a bewildered author, usually in the spirit of the following:

When the world begins
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Count Gravlax
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Patrick Peterson
2021-06-11 - I read this between 1981 and 1985 and am finally writing this review because I noticed a friend's review (Thanks Jim Henderson!) which was excellent. So I recommend his short review highly.

I liked the book, BUT, there were issues. So do not read it uncritically.

Will return to this later.
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Erik Graff
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Maya Kaloferova
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marvellous walk through all the madnesses of mankind known so far! Except for the Covid-19, of course, which the author was lucky enough to have been spared. Oh, how he would have marveled at this total mess of delusional madness!
Steve
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a delightful read! Oh, to be reminded of humanity's follies and foolishness. Yes, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. I'm always delighted to read of the foibles of Walter the Penniless and Peter the Hermit, truly amusing but for the (hundreds of?) thousands of misguided followers who met an early and painful death in the first crusade. And how about those many thousands of suspected witches who met brutal deaths? And on and on.

We see in this volume echoes of the enthusiasms that prop
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Jeanette
This is extremely difficult to rate. Or even define.

3.5 stars for the first three sections which core on the specific bubbles that occurred in France, England, Holland during the centuries of early cross Atlantic ships.

I've read entire books before about the tulip mania which is the 3rd one in time analyzed/ detailed here.

The book itself which has immense history of individuals who lived their lives obsessed with the turning of base metals into gold or sought composition of the philosopher's sto
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Anne
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was not quite what I expected, but I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised. I was expecting more of a discussion or deep dive into the psychology behind groupthink or mob behavior, but instead found a humorous and insightful look at the various follies that have afflicted mankind (or that mankind has afflicted on itself) throughout history.

I disagreed on some aspects of his worldview, namely that I believe there is a spiritual world beyond our natural realm and the two sometimes mix. I
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Enkhtur
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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Marc Lucke
Apr 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction

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

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Al Maki
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
S
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
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)
Dipanshu Gupta
Apr 06, 2022 rated it liked it
The first few chapters on financial bubbles were legendary. The other manias were a hit and miss for me. They were too detailed at times for me; the chapter on witch hunting was such a drag.

Nils Bohr once said that science is the gradual removal of prejudices. Looking back on the kind of shit our ancestors did, like dueling instead of court trials, is absolutely barbaric. However, there is a part of our monkey brain thinking we can never leave behind, which becomes the topic of all psychology b
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Henrik Haapala
“Let us not, in the pride of our superior knowledge, turn with contempt from the follies of our predecessors. The study of the 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 his youth, and recalls to his mind the strange notions that swayed his actions at that time, that he may wonder at them; so should society, for its education, look back to the opinions which governed the ages fled. He is but ...more
Sue Burke
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A historically important compendium of urban myths gilded with a thin layer of facts and moralizing musings. It can serve as a springboard to the study of actual history, economics, and psychology, or it can be an entertaining way to pass some time -- but don't believe everything you read here. ...more
Freddie Sykes
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you don't read this get used to the idea that you'll be a sucker all your life. ...more
Jackie
Mar 16, 2022 rated it liked it
This is a book about the foolishness of people and how easily they fall for popular delusions. It was first published in 1841 about the ridiculous scams people believed in during that time. The scams of today are just as foolish especially with our recently popular conspiracy theories. Bernard Baruch wrote the forward for the 1932 edition. He says, “Anyone taken as an individual, is tolerably sensible and reasonable-as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead”. So be careful what you ...more
Mohammad Ali Abedi
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
Frank Theising
Apr 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
First published in 1841, Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds chronicles the (frequently irrational) herd mentality and superstition of mankind up to that date (mostly focused on Europe but he includes a handful of examples from the US and Asia). Sadly, the sheer number of Ponzi schemes, get rich quick schemes, speculative market bubbles, superstitions (maybe involving your favorite sports team), horoscopes, cults, crop circles, prosperity gospel preachers, ...more
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
...more
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
...more
Jennifer Nelson
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.
David
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Anna
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-history-bio
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
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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.

Mackay became a journalist in London: in 1834 he was an occasional contributor to The Sun. From the spring of 1835 till 1844 he was assistant sub-editor of the Morning Chronicle. In the autumn of 1839 he spent a mont
...more

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

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October has arrived, and this month’s batch of incoming titles features some big names, some much-anticipated sequels, and several exotic...
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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.” 126 likes
“In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” 37 likes
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