Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age by Anne GoldgarIn the 1630s the Netherlands was gripped by tulipmania: a speculative fever unprecedented in scale and, as popular history would have it, folly. We all know the outline of the story—how otherwise sensible merchants, nobles, and artisans spent all they had (and much that they didn’t) on tulip bulbs. We have heard how these bulbs changed hands hundreds of times in a single day, and how some bulbs, sold and resold for thousands of guilders, never even existed. Tulipmania is seen as an example of the gullibility of crowds and the dangers of financial speculation.
But it wasn’t like that. As Anne Goldgar reveals in Tulipmania, not one of these stories is true. Making use of extensive archival research, she lays waste to the legends, revealing that while the 1630s did see a speculative bubble in tulip prices, neither the height of the bubble nor its bursting were anywhere near as dramatic as we tend to think. By clearing away the accumulated myths, Goldgar is able to show us instead the far more interesting reality: the ways in which tulipmania reflected deep anxieties about the transformation of Dutch society in the Golden Age.
“Goldgar tells us at the start of her excellent debunking book: ‘Most of what we have heard of [tulipmania] is not true.’. . . She tells a new story.”—Simon Kuper, Financial Times
The truth about Tulip Mania
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. In the forgettable sequel to the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko lays out the basic outline of the tulip bubble story as most people know it:. They called it tulipmania. Gekko reminds us that tulipmania is remembered as a kind of mass delusion. A frenzy for tulips which quickly reached such a fever pitch that prices for bulbs soared.
I fear once I start, I will want to go on with it, again and again. And as one wave drives on another, so one deal would bring forth the other, and so, methinks, it is better I stay with my poor business and my own profession. I make no great profit and suffer no great loss. Gaergoedt [Greedy Goods]: That's well said. But could you not venture a little?
Tulip mania (Dutch: tulpenmanie) was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract At the peak of tulip mania, in February , some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsworker.
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When economists need to summon an age of unchecked speculation and financial fecklessness—usually as an analog to our own—the Dutch tulip mania is at the top of the list. - Tulip Mania , also called Tulip Craze, Dutch Tulpenwindhandel , a speculative frenzy in 17th-century Holland over the sale of tulip bulbs. Tulips were introduced into Europe from Turkey shortly after , and the delicately formed, vividly coloured flowers became a popular if costly item.
When tulips came to the Netherlands, all the world went mad. A sailor who mistook a rare tulip bulb for an onion and ate it with his herring sandwich was charged with a felony and thrown in prison. A bulb named Semper Augustus, notable for its flame-like white and red petals, sold for more than the cost of a mansion in a fashionable Amsterdam neighborhood, complete with coach and garden. As the tulip market grew, speculation exploded, with traders offering exorbitant prices for bulbs that had yet to flower. And then, as any financial bubble will do, the tulip market imploded, sending traders of all incomes into ruin. For decades, economists have pointed to 17th-century tulipmania as a warning about the perils of the free market.
This article is marked as 'retired'. The later part of the 20th century saw its share of odd financial bubbles. There was the real-estate bubble, the stock market bubbles, and the dot com bubble, just to name a few. One has to believe that the same thought occurred to the Dutch in the 17th century when they settled down after their bout with tulipomania, wherein the humble tulip bulb began to sell for prices to make New York Realtors blanch. As much as the tulip is associated with Holland, it is not native there.