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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Charles Mackay's 19th-century classic study of mass manias, phobias, and delusions down through the ages, showing that little has changed when it comes to human nature and gullibilty, and practically every neurosis of our times has its historical parallel. Subjects include the South Sea Bubble, Witch Mania, Alchemy, the Crusades, Prophecy, Fortune-telling, Haunted Houses, and the epidemic of Tulipomania, when tulip bulbs were traded at prices exceeding that of gold.
From the description at amazon.com:
Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into hare-brained speculative frenzies--only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? We may think that the Great Crash of 1929, junk bonds of the '80s, and over-valued high-tech stocks of the '90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but Mackay's classic--first published
in 1841--shows that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds. These are extraordinarily illuminating,and, unfortunately, entertaining tales of chicanery, greed and naivete. Essential reading for any student of human nature or the transmission of ideas.
"Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some madness to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined."