Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds


Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is a classic study of crowd psychology remains an extremely essential to the present day. Mackay’s central theme in this book is how easily a herd can be illogically influenced by popular opinion. Mackay warns us about this “madness” that often leads to a downward spiral with undesirable effects. His book highlights several stories from the history of various manias and three grand-scale cons that took place. Its extraordinary tales of human folly uncovers the frenzy of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the junk-bonds hysteria of the 1980s were far from the twentieth-century phenomena.

  • The book was published in three volumes: "National Delusions", "Peculiar Follies", and "Philosophical Delusions".

  • The subjects of Mackay's debunking include alchemy, crusades, duels, economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, the Drummer of Tedworth, the influence of politics and religion on the shapes of beards and hair, magnetisers, murder through poisoning, prophecies, popular admiration of great thieves, popular follies of great cities, and relics.

Volume I: National Delusions

  • The Mississippi Scheme

  • The South Sea Bubble

  • The Tulip mania

  • Relics

  • Modern Prophecies

  • Popular Admiration for Great Thieves (cf Hybristophilia)

  • 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

  • Old Price Riots

  • The Thugs, or Phansigars

Volume II: Peculiar Follies

  • The Crusades

  • The Witch Mania

  • The Slow Prisoners

  • Haunted Houses

Volume III: Philosophical Delusions

  • Book I: The Alchemysts

  • Book II: Fortune Telling

  • Book III: The Magnetisers