Feb 27, 2014

Tulipomania

by Mike Dash

This book was a slow start for me, but worth the read. It's all about the tulip craze that occurred in the Netherlands in the early 1600's. The book establishes a solid groundwork by introducing the flower- where it came from, why it was so unique and sought-after, all the little particulars about the Dutch economy, customs, and the flower itself that made it possible for so many people to suddenly bid crazily on the bulbs. Staggering fortunes were spent, rapidly changing hands, all for flower bulbs that couldn't be examined because they were in the ground until a certain period of time usually months in the future! The nature of how tulips grow made them relatively scarce to begin with, the treasured vivid streaking of colors called "breaking" was unpredictable (actually caused by a virus), and so valued even more. Prices continued to rise steeply until they suddenly crashed, and the last few chapters cover the aftermath- how people recovered or didn't, how the tulip steadily remained a gardener's flower, even after its heightened popularity had abated. Interestingly, the author also mentions a few other tulip crazes that occurred in different countries- a hundred years later- and with other flowers as well for brief periods- hyacinths, dahlias, red spider lilies- although none of those quite as astounding as the tulip mania, they show the same phenomenon. It was a very interesting read and I learned a lot, not only about one particular flower, but also about the rudimentary workings of a stock market (that's basically how the bidding and exchanges of bulbs were carried out- as far as I understand- because they were mostly intangible objects, some people selling didn't even own any bulbs!) The only thing I wished for was a few illustrations showing the gorgeous colors and patterns that once had people trading an entire estate for a single flower.

Rating: 3/5    273 pages, 1999

more opinions:
Going Dutch
Neville Kuyt's Blog

3 comments:

bermudaonion said...

We have a neighbor who is a tulip fanatic and he's told me about that. I need to get the book for him.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I was mentioning this book to my sister the other day! It sounds really interesting but I haven't read it yet -- I've just heard about how tulips were this insanely desirable commodity for a while.

Trish said...

Wow! Can you imagine selling an estate for flowers! I've heard a little about the tulip craze but would love to know more. Sounds so fascinating!