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View Full Version : Dutch Tulip Mania (1600's) : True or False?


ralph124c
07-13-2004, 01:31 PM
I have read about the alleged market speculation in tulip bulbs, by dutch investors in the 1530's. There is a famous account of this given in "Extraordinary Populars Delusions/Madness of Crowds"-a book from the 1840's. While it is an entertaining tale, I don't think anything like this could have happened in 17th century Holland. My reasons:
-tulip bulbs are fungible-they must be planted within 5 months , or they will die (not a good thing for an investment)
-tulips were grown by the rich..I cannot imagine a broad market for these things among the middle class. Thus, such a market would have been very small.
-the population of the Neterlands in the 1630's was about 1.1 million people (at most)..and if the rich (those who had the wherewithal to speculate) were about 0.5 percent, that would not be much to sustain a market for so long.
References to the "tulip mania" occur in many books..yet, I have seen no hard evidence of a devastating market crash like this. In all such crashes, there are a few big winners and many more big losers..are there any records of VIOLENCE against the (pereceived) winners? :confused:

pervert
07-13-2004, 01:52 PM
I'm not sure what sort of evidence you are looking for. This site (http://www.bulb.com/history.asp) from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center contains quite a bit of history about tulips. Including this timeline. (http://www.bulb.com/aboutspring/timetable.asp) And this quote.

The bottom fell out of the market during 1637, when a gathering of bulb merchants could not get the usual inflated prices for their bulbs. Word quickly spread, and the market crashed.

Thousands of Dutch businessmen, many among the country's leading economic powerbrokers, were ruined in less than two months' time -- extremely rapid deployment of bad news for 1637!

As the Dutch were prominent international traders, economic repercussions were felt in far-flung pockets of the world and several years of economic turmoil followed. So What’s all the Fuss About?

Not really evidence of violence I guess. But there does seem to be quite a bit of evidence for the mania.

Jackmannii
07-13-2004, 02:58 PM
I have read about the alleged market speculation in tulip bulbs, by dutch investors in the 1530's. There is a famous account of this given in "Extraordinary Populars Delusions/Madness of Crowds"-a book from the 1840's. While it is an entertaining tale, I don't think anything like this could have happened in 17th century Holland. My reasons:
-tulip bulbs are fungible-they must be planted within 5 months , or they will die (not a good thing for an investment)
-tulips were grown by the rich..I cannot imagine a broad market for these things among the middle class. Thus, such a market would have been very small.
-the population of the Neterlands in the 1630's was about 1.1 million people (at most)..and if the rich (those who had the wherewithal to speculate) were about 0.5 percent, that would not be much to sustain a market for so long.
References to the "tulip mania" occur in many books..yet, I have seen no hard evidence of a devastating market crash like this. In all such crashes, there are a few big winners and many more big losers..are there any records of VIOLENCE against the (pereceived) winners? :confused:A few responses:

There's been speculation in perishable commodities for a very long time (and continuing today); for much of the period refrigeration has not been a viable option. So the idea of speculating in tulips isn't that bizarre.

From what I've read about the Tulipomania (a sober and well-documented history just came out in the last few years), the attraction toward these bulbs did in fact spread downward into the middle classes. A part of this was due to the perception that fortunes could be made in investing and selling. The reason for the crash was largely that too few of the speculators were the collectors and aficionados that fueled the initial price surge; there was also a shortage of prize bulbs and a lot of mediocre stock that no collectors really wanted. Once buyers could no longer be readily found for these so-so bulbs (and this happened with startling suddenness in one trading arena, then spread nationwide) the market crashed.

The new book (I'm sure you can find it on Amazon or Google) doesn't say much about violence, but there was a boatload of lawsuits over contracts that people refused to fulfill after the debacle.
Were brokers brawling and shooting up the Exchange after the Wall St. Crash of '29? :dubious:

Maybe Coldfire has more perspective on this. I hear his collection of parrot tulips is unrivalled. :D

BrainGlutton
07-13-2004, 11:05 PM
I think this really belongs in GQ. It's a strictly factual, historical question.

Jackmannii
07-14-2004, 07:35 AM
The book I referred to is Tulipomania by Mike Dash.