These two unabridged chapters from Charles Mackay’s two-volume evergreen work, Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841) deal with the disastrous South Sea Bubble and the extraordinary outbreak of Tulipomania in Holland. The South Sea Company, a British joint stock company founded in 1711, was granted a monopoly to trade in Spain’s South American colonies. In return, the company took on the national debt of England. Speculation in the company's stock led to a great economic bubble known as the South Sea Bubble in 1720, which caused financial ruin for many, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Aislabie. Mackay describes this exciting period with great relish and in considerable detail. Tulipomania was an equally bizarre and tragicomic period in Dutch history when almost the whole population began trading and speculating in tulip bulbs, leading to the financial ruin of thousands. At the height of tulip mania, in 1637, a single tulip bulb might sell for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is often considered the first recorded economic bubble.For those interested in contemporary finance, economics or social history these incidents are sure to delight and horrify in equal measure. Also included is Mackay’s amusing chapter on the passing fashions in slang in London. The South Sea Bubble and Tulipomania: Financial Madness and Delusion is read by Greg Wagland for Magpie Audio.
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