This is the title of a book published first in 1841 by Charles Mackay.
This is a fascinating book, a classic, still in print, but little known. It has influenced many famous people. Of this book, Bernard Baruch wrote that his study of it saved him millions.
Andrew Tobias wrote, in his preface to a recent edition, that "As with any true classic, once it is read it is had to imagine not having read it."
Mackay writes in his own preface that his object is "to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes. . . . Popular delusions began so early, spread so widely, and have lasted so long, that instead of two or three volumes, fifty would scarcely sufficient to detail their history. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. . . Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."
One of the chapters is about Alchemists, in which Mackay writes "Three causes especially have excited the discontent of mankind; and, by impelling up to seek for remedies for the irremediable, have bewildered us in a maze of madness and error. These are death, toil, and ignorance of the future," and of the last, he writes about our "craving curiosity to pierce the secrets of the days to come."
This is a beautiful written classic, well worth exploring, if not reading in its entirety.
I read this book in junior high. I found the stuff on alchemy tedious then, but I gained a life-long fascination with speculative bubbles from it! Would that the lessons of the Mississipi venture, Tulipomania, and the South Sea Bubble were always with us!
I liked your book, Renegade Naturalist, but I’m not quite sure why you see yourself as a renegade. Is being thoughtful and open-minded that outré in the academic/ecology world? Too bad, if so.