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Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,815 ratings  ·  103 reviews
A lively, original, and challenging history of stock market speculation from the 17th century to present day.

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?

In Devil Take the Hindmost, Edward Chancell
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Plume Books (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  1,815 ratings  ·  103 reviews

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Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best economic books I've read in a long time, and I studied economics and read a lot of economic books. A compelling and balanced view of financial speculation that leads to the reasonable conclusion that the overextension of credit is the cause of financial instability. A must read. ...more
May 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Hood
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: investing
I enjoyed this book. Insightful. I spent lunch with Chancellor when he was at GMO (2010 or 2011). A pompous fellow, who like to hear himself talk. Was predicting the collapse of China.
Noah Goats
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This history of financial speculation is an interesting look at one of the many negative aspects of human nature. We are a species of gamblers, and speculating in the stock market allows us to gamble while fooling ourselves into thinking that we are contributing something to the economy.

Chancellor shows how we seem to be unable to stop or even recognize reckless speculation for what it is despite the clear pattern established by history: a new technology or financial instrument (or a combo of b
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jim Rossi
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very solid, entertaining, and incisive history of financial crises, kind of a more narrative version of Kindlebeger's Manias, Panics & Crashes. I read both as part of my history studies in grad school, and for my first book, "The Case of the Cleantech Con Artist: A True Vegas Tale." ...more
George Jankovic
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book on financial speculations from the olden days through today.
Ram Kaushik
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
An impressive piece of scholarship, covering the history of financial bubbles through the ages. The author covers the speculative periods ranging from the Tulip mania of the 1600's, the South Sea bubble of the 1700's all the way till the Internet bubbles of the 1990's. The author's research is incredible, as the voluminous footnotes attest. However, it almost feels overwhelming. Each of these financial bubbles is easily worth a book, and to strike a balance that is a broad sweep while still prov ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting! I still don't understand derivatives...

The content itself was fascinating, but I did find the book hard to read at times. The stories were great, I was probably just getting lost with some of the numbers because of listening to the audiobook version.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is difficult for me to imagine someone reading this book and remaining a true believer in the "efficient market hypothesis" (the notion that the price of a security at any given time reflects all the available information and only responds to new information rather than the "mood" of the market or manipulations of speculators). That markets are beneficial and usually clear, sure, but Chancellor, an ex-banker, gives many examples of ways in which irrationality, group madness, and outright mani ...more
Viktor Nilsson
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I picked up this book because I'm interested in everything that concerns investing and speculation. While there's always a plethora of writings on current events and the latest thing, very few stand the test of time, and so I like reading from an historic perspective.

This book turned out to fit well into the history category - if you're looking for advanced financial analysis you won't find it here, although the author clearly knows what he's talking about. What makes this book so good is the wa
Sy. C
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good summary. Haven't read Kindleberger's "Manias, Panics and Crashes" so not able to compare which is the better book. Includes an overview (last chapter) of the Japanese 1980s real estate and stock market bubble. ...more
Andy M
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The second part of the title itself might deter a lot of readers, but it's only a general hint about the book's contents. Chancellor's book brings to light many incidents that point to a pattern that seems to repeat. A scheming small group of investors starts a bubble, and later less knowledgable investors are lured in after them. The small original group eventually sells out, leaving the ignorant and over-optimistic latecomers holding an investment now worth far less than the price that they pa ...more
Barry Bridges
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Chancellor explores bubbles from the Tulip to the Tech boom of the 90's. As I read this post great recession, I can see the looming derivatives bubble coming. I cannot help but wonder if anyone on Wall Street or in the banking business has ever read the book or even studied market bubbles. The patterns and indicators are the same, from the 1630's to the twenty-first century. Still, people throw their money, or better yet, borrow someone else's money to throw at every bubble that comes along. Rea ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive, and fairly dense, history of financial speculation. Seems the author assumes the reader has a pretty strong grasp of fundamental investing concepts, so that can make the text hard to follow or fully understand at times. Ultimately it's quite an interesting and illuminating history of speculative manias and crises. Spoiler alert: corrupt, venal politicians and government officials are involved with just about all of them. ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.

Samuel Gruen
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: finance
Interesting overview of the history of speculation yet sometimes quite dry and repetitive in form and substance, possibly due to the recurring nature of booms, euphoria and panics.
Jacob Williams
Interesting and informative; I'd seen many of these situations alluded to in various investment books but this provides much more detail. ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, business
I read this book after listening to an episode of Jesse Felder's podcast where he interviewed Grant Williams. Grant Williams is one of the founders of Real Vision (the netflix of financial TV) and he said "Devil Take the Hindmost" inspired him. Unfortunately, I decided to read this book after such a recommendation.

I love the subject matter. In fact, I've listened to multiple Grant William's podcasts where he has described episodes from the book (e.g., John Law) in more detail and loved it. Chanc
Dennis Littrell
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Anticipates the pricking of the Internet bubble

This is a sobering tome published at exactly the right time. Unfortunately I was too busy salivating at the prospects of quadruple-figure appreciation when I bought at $104 to read it when it came out last year. Now reading it makes for a nice penitence as I contemplate the error of my financial ways while filling out forms for a second mortgage on the ranch.

Just joking. Actually this is a readable and entertaining account from Roman t
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: paperback
Holy moly this book has a lot of information. The biggest reason I gave it three stars was because of the information vomit that is thrown at you.

Chancellor mentions so many names throughout the book that it’s hard to keep up and remember who is who. Additionally, there can be a lot of more technical finance terms that aren’t well-defined. I majored in finance in college and had a hard time keeping up.

With that being said, this is a financial speculation history book. There is a ton of history
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The four most expensive words in the English language are 'this time it's different.'" Although this quote comes halfway through the book, it's pretty much the through-running theme. Each chapter covers a particular period of financial speculation ending in a big bust, from Tulipomania in 17th Century Holland, to the stock market excesses of Wall Street and Japan in the 1980's. And each and every time, "this time it's different" -- we're too smart now, or the systems have been made foolproof, e ...more
Fraser Sherman
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, history
An excellent look at the great investing bubbles of history: Tulipmania, the South Sea Bubble, the Mississippi bubble, railroad bubbles in England and the U.S. (Chancellor points out that shiny new technology always prompts bubbles) and Japan's economic bubble of the 1980s (this came out too early for the bubble and 2007 real estate bubbles, but they fit the book perfectly). Despite the arguments of some economists that speculation is always rational because the market is perfectly ratio ...more
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
As the saying goes, “History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.” This book puts into perspective many considerations that we have about today's markets. Definitely recommended!

The intro (e.g., tulip mania) is quite interesting, the middle is a bit of a drag sometimes but the final chapters on modern speculation are a breeze to read. Fascinating and premonitory stuff given that the book is from 1999 but it touches a lot of points that became crystal clear in the 2008 fina
Nam KK
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Edward Chancellor surely reads a lot of books - just look at his reference list. He first got my attention in his Capital Returns, in which the first 20 pages or so would be one of the best investment essays ever written. I also enjoyed reading Devil Take the Hindmost - I read a similar book (but more focusing on economics) named Business Cycles by Tvede. Chancellor is more readable, but shallower. But if you like to know about trading, market flow, market participants in each of the major boom ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
When we talk of bubbles we always refer to the crash of 1929, tulip mania and tech bubble, yet think we fail to grasp just how often bubbles occur and how similar every single one is. Author identifies key causes - bubbles formed by financial or tech innovation, over extension of credit, belief that "it's a different world"

Great piece of financial history. Only criticism is that it's very very dense, not an easy read.
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Last one in/out is a rotten egg! This book examines the attitudes, personalities, and policies behind major historic market bubbles from Dutch tulips to the Japanese economy of the 1980s. The times and technology may change, but people sure don't. This is especially true when they are motivated by fear and greed. Non-financial types (like myself) rejoice! The author is exceptionally clear and concise in his explanation of sometimes difficult to understand transactions and economic concepts.
Tony Cavicchi
Edward Chancellor tells the stories of the craziest speculations, from the Roman Forum to America's NASDAQ tech stocks. This compelling reading that shows human nature does not change and that financial engineering and promises of a new age of progress usually end badly--so let the devil take the hindmost! Chancellor is a funny, ironic narrator, but also lets some sympathy come through for the middle class that seems to usually get hoodwinked. Today we can read books like his and know better. ...more
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