Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions by Charles Mackay
This book is a joy to read and remains relevant in the current era of financial boom and bust. Mackay examines animal magnetism, money-mania, tulip-mania, the history of hair and facial hair, haunted houses, and much more. Throughout history, the most extraordinary fashions and trends have been followed unthinkingly, and occasionally this crowd fever has overtaken not only a town but a whole country; in some cases much of western Europe was engulfed simultaneously. The ability of some manias to be so far-reaching, and for common sense and intelligence to abandon such large populations seem incredible, though the book is as thought-provoking now as it was when first published in 1852. Volume 2 examines the fervour of the crusades and of witch trials, both of which engulfed Europe at different times. Explored on a lighter note are haunted houses and a fashion for lady poisoners.