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Tulip mania... maybe not quite what we were told


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http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/there-never-was-real-tulip-fever-180964915/

 

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. Writers and historians have reveled in the absurdity of the event. The incident even provides the backdrop for the new film Tulip Fever, based on a novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach.

 

The only problem: none of these stories are true.

 

What really happened and how did the story of Dutch tulip speculation get so distorted? Anne Goldgar discovered the historical reality when she dug into the archives to research her book, Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age.

 

“I always joke that the book should be called ‘Tulipmania: More Boring Than You Thought,’” says Goldgar, a professor of early modern history at King’s College London.

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http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/there-never-was-real-tulip-fever-180964915/

 

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. Writers and historians have reveled in the absurdity of the event. The incident even provides the backdrop for the new film Tulip Fever, based on a novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach.

 

The only problem: none of these stories are true.

 

What really happened and how did the story of Dutch tulip speculation get so distorted? Anne Goldgar discovered the historical reality when she dug into the archives to research her book, Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age.

 

“I always joke that the book should be called ‘Tulipmania: More Boring Than You Thought,’” says Goldgar, a professor of early modern history at King’s College London.

 

 

 

"Dutch Calvinists worried that the tulip-propelled consumerism boom would lead to societal decay. Their insistence that such great wealth was ungodly has even stayed with us to this day."

 

 

This Calvinist distaste of wealth is indeed still with us today, and far too common, but has been taken up by worshipers of government power, rather than by worshipers of mythical supreme beings.

 

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So it still sounds like there was a bubble though right?  Just not quite as big as advertised?

 

Yes, it sounds like there was a bubble in the rare bulbs for the multicolored tulips, but the story was embellished upon the retelling, like a game of telephone going on for 400 years.

 

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