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August 16, 2003

Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)
Posted by Teresa at 05:50 PM *

VOL. I - NATIONAL DELUSIONS, including: The Mississippi Scheme, The South Sea Bubble, The Tulipomania, Relics, Modern Prophecies, Popular Admiration for Great Thieves, Influence of Politics and Religion on the Hair and Beard, Duels and Ordeals, The Love of the Marvellous and the Disbelief of the True, Popular Follies in Great Cities, The O.P. Mania, and The Thugs, or Phansigars.

VOL. II – PECULIAR FOLLIES, including: The Crusades, The Witch Mania, The Slow Poisoners, and Haunted Houses.

VOL. III, BOOK I – PHILOSOPHICAL DELUSIONS, including: The Alchymists, Geber, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquina, Artephius, Alain de Lisle, Arnold de Villeneuve, Pietro d’Apone, Raymond Lulli, Roger Bacon, Pope John XXII, Jean De Meung, Nicholas Flamel, George Ripley, Basil Valentine, Bernard of Treves, Trithemius, The Marechal de Rays, and Jacques Coeur.

VOL. III, BOOK II – PROGRESS OF THE INFATUATION DURING THE SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES AND PRESENT STATE OF THE SCIENCE, including: Augurello, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, George Agricola, Denis Zachaire, Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly, The Cosmopolite, Sendivogius, The Rosicrucians, Jacob Bohmen, Mormius, Borri, Inferior Alchymists of the Seventeenth Century, Jean Delisle, Albert Aluys, The Count de St. Germain, Cagliostro, and the Present State of Alchemy,.

VOL. III, BOOK II - FORTUNE TELLING.

VOL. III, BOOK III - THE MAGNETISERS, including chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Comments on Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841):
#1 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 08:26 PM:

When I first discovered the book in college I thought, "Alchemy? Magnetism? Madness of Crowds? Cool!" I was disappointed to realize that Mackay was opposed to these things, the spoilsport.

My favorite story remains the one about the Marquis de Puysegur and his magnetized elm tree (starting in the fourth paragraph). Also the illustration, not reproduced online, called "Law in a Car Drawn by Cocks." It actually refers to John Law, but by title alone it might just as well refer to the "but what do they care?" thread.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 08:35 PM:

Poor John Law! It would have taken the wiliness of a professional con artist to maintain control of that bubble. His tragedy was that he was nothing of the sort.

#3 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 01:10 PM:

I wonder how many more volumes would have to be added to cover the subsequent 160-odd years?

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:11 PM:

I don't know. After a while you can see that it falls into patterns, so you just have to log the variations and novelties.

#5 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:41 PM:

In fact animal magnetism is still going strong. A friend of mine just fell under its spell, or rather its scientifical healing forces, a couple of years ago, along with past-life dowsing (i.e., hypnotism) and I don't know what all.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 05:08 PM:

"After a while you can see that it falls into patterns"

Same emotional tropes, new props.

The mid-19th-Century scams involving steam engines that ran without coal (the sinister coal interests were covering up the fact that water vapor could be created without heat!) are a lot like current-days scams involving zero-point energy, cold fusion, "gyromass" power and the like.

#7 ::: Stephanie Zvan ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 11:15 PM:

Thank you!

I've been considering picking this up for a while. It's lovely to have a place to check out the language and readability (and overlap with the rest of my library) of something this old before investing in the shelf space.

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