New Book | The Great Mirror of Folly

Posted in books by Editor on February 25, 2014

Published in November 2013 by Yale University Press:

William N. Goetzmann, Catherine Labio, K. Geert Rouwenhorst, and Timothy G. Young, eds., The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Crash of 1720, with a foreword by Robert J. Shiller. Yale Series in Economic and Financial History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013). 360 pages, ISBN: 978-0300162462, $75.

9780300162462The world’s first global stock market bubble suddenly burst in 1720, destroying the dreams and fortunes of speculators in Paris, London, and Amsterdam. Their folly and misfortune inspired the quasi-simultaneous publication of an extraordinary Dutch collection of texts and images, including financial prospectuses, satirical prints, plays, poems, and suites of playing cards: Het groote Tafereel de Dwaasheid (The Great Mirror of Folly), the most aesthetically pleasing and historically valuable record of a financial crisis and its cultural dimensions.

No one discipline has been able to give a definitive account of the causes and effects of the bouts of “irrational exuberance” that have taken stock market participants and observers by surprise since 1720, when the collapses of the Mississippi, South Sea, and a host of smaller companies stunned Europe’s burgeoning financial markets. In this new and richly illustrated volume scholars from fields as diverse as economics, history, the history of art, literature, and cultural studies bring a wide variety of perspectives to bear on the Tafereel in order to provide a definitive account of the events of 1720 and of the mix of economic and cultural factors behind the financial crashes that have caused widespread economic and cultural shock for almost 300 years. The book also reproduces many of the engravings included in the Tafereel to give readers an approximation of the original volume and of the dramatic rise, progress, and fall of the first international stock market crash.

William N. Goetzmann is the Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management at the Yale School of Management. Catherine Labio is associate professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder. K. Geert Rouwenhorst is Robert B. & Candice J. Haas Professor of Corporate Finance at the Yale School of Management. Timothy G. Young is curator of modern books and manuscripts at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

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