For centuries in Europe, innocent men and women were murdered for the imaginary crime of witchcraft. This was a mass delusion and moral panic, driven by pious superstition and a deadly commitment to religious conformity. In Witch: A Tale of Terror, best-selling author Sam Harris introduces and reads from Charles Mackay's beloved book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
"An uncomfortable reminder of the power of belief "
Charles Mackay covers many types of delusions, among them financial manias like the South Sea Company bubble of 1711-1720, the Mississippi Company bubble of 1719-1720, and the Dutch tulip mania of the early 17th century. According to Mackay, during this bubble, speculators from all walks of life bought and sold tulip bulbs and even futures contracts on them.
"Not As Advertised"
Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? We may think that the Great Crash of 1929, junk bonds of the '80s, and over-valued high-tech stocks of the '90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but Mackay's classic - first published in 1841 - shows that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds.
"People don't change"
These two unabridged chapters from Charles Mackay’s two-volume evergreen work, Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841) deal with the disastrous South Sea Bubble and the extraordinary outbreak of Tulipomania in Holland.
"Satire Well Worth $6 Sales Price"
Published in 1841 it is a stylish and comprehensive dissection of the witch mania which beset much of Europe in the 16th and 17th century. In his easygoing journalistic style Mackay describes in some detail many celebrated outbreaks of this hysteria including the trials of Dr. Fian and Gellie Duncan in Scotland, the progress of Matthew Hopkins through East Anglia as the self-styled Witch-Finder General, and further episodes in New England, Wurzburg and Geneva. Herein are speeches made from the dock, the scaffold, from the foot of the ‘bonnie fire’ itself, gruesome accounts of the many tortures endured and several chilling spells and incantations.
"A Pleasant Surprise"