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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,221 Ratings  ·  48 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
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Plume (first published 1996)
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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.
May 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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
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
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
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.
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.

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."
Jacob Williams
Interesting and informative; I'd seen many of these situations alluded to in various investment books but this provides much more detail.
George Jankovic
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book on financial speculations from the olden days through today.
Dec 05, 2014 added it
Shelves: set-aside
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.
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.
Alexandre Magno
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
a historia de vários esquemas de piramides, muito bom
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
Travis Scher
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great read for anybody interested in investing
Caleb John Philbrick
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Didn't know that Hillary Clinton was such an expert commodities trader.
Best part of this book is about Milken.
Janis Orlovs
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
After reading this book you will not be asking will the market will flop: but when, how much and how to profit from it
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Edwin Setiadi
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tragic, exuberant and somewhat unchanged; there are probably no other place where history often repeated itself, other than the financial market. And in "Devil Take the Hindmost", the history of financial market speculation is being brought back to life, through Edward Chancellor's exquisite writing.

Written in the pages of the book, there were once a Publicani in the Roman Empire era on 2nd century B.C., the primitive form of financial market in Hotel Des Bourses in 16th century Antwerp, and the
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting review of speculative manias and bubbles throughout history. The book is very well researched, with a plethora of quotes from contemporary sources of the eras in question. However, I felt this also meant the tone could verge on being somewhat scholarly and dry. My key takeaway was that a new speculative mania always seems different at the time, but in hindsight it fits into some predictable patterns. I am self-taught about the stock market and investing, and at times the ...more
Jun 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, economics
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
Aug 31, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Laurence Li
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
absolutely mind-boggling. Basically people creating money out of thin air, only to have it all crashing down on them eventually. What goes up, must come down--even if people think there's some "structural change" that will keep the markets high, they're just deluding themselves and this book makes that crystal clear.
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