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Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds

Charles Mackay

Foreword by Sir John Templeton (1912–2008)

Today, as in the time of the South Sea Bubble, human nature is drawn like a moth to flame by the speculative fads of the marketplace. The excitement of new glamour issues in electronics or medical technology, the general euphoria over a rising market; these lure even many experienced investors. Their optimism overcomes their better judgment. They abandon critical analysis of the investment's fundamental value. Like gamblers in a casino they play against the odds, paying inflated prices and dreaming of quick profit.” — from the foreword by John Marks Templeton

Mackay's classic, first published in 1841, studies the psychology of crowds and mass mania throughout history, including accounts of classic scams, grand-scale madness, and deceptions. Some of these include the Mississippi scheme that swept France in 1720, the South Sea Bubble that ruined thousands in England at the same time, and the tulip mania of Holland, when fortunes were made and lost on single tulip bulbs.

Other chapters deal with fads and delusions that often spring from valid ideas of causes, many of which still have their followers today: alchemy and the philosopher's stone, the prophecies of Nostradamus, the coming of comets and judgment day, the Rosicrucians, and astrology.

Time and again we can avoid disastrous pitfalls and learn to profit by seeing the ways that history repeats itself. Fascinating, mesmerizing, strikingly strange, and amazingly shrewd, this book will never be forgotten and cannot be ignored.

The Mississippi Scheme / 1–45

The South–Sea Bubble / 46–88

The Tulipomania / 89–97

The Alchymists / 98–256

Modern Prophecies / 257–280

Fortune–Telling / 281–303

The Magnetisers / 304–345

Influence of Politics and Religion on the Hair and Beard / 346–353

The Crusades / 354–461

The Witch Mania / 462–564

The Slow Poisoners / 565–592

Haunted Houses / 593–618

Popular Follies of Great Cities / 619–631

Duels and Ordeals / 647–694

Relics / 695–702