|A Satire of Tulip Mania by Brueghel the Younger (ca. 1640) depicts speculators as brainless monkeys|
Tulip mania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age when contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip (so different from every other flower known to Europe at that time) reached extraordinarily high levels in the winter of 1636 and then suddenly collapsed in February 1637 when an outbreak of bubonic plague may have kept buyers away from the bulb auction in Haarlem. Blooms worth 5,000 guilders a few weeks before now fetched one-hundredth that amount. Some say that the plague may have helped create a culture of risk-taking that fueled the intense speculation (It was unimaginable to most people that something as common as a flower could be worth so much more money than most people earned in a year.) but this particular outbreak may also have been a contributing factor that helped to stem the tide.
In 1841, the Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and his description of tulip mania as a speculative bubble remains prominent, even though contemporary economists have debunked many aspects of his account. In her 2007 scholarly analysis Tulipmania, Anne Goldgar argues that although tulip mania may not have been such an enormous economic bubble (or burst), it was nonetheless traumatic to the Dutch…"Even though the financial crisis affected very few, the shock of tulip mania was considerable. A whole network of values was thrown into doubt." Some say that network is still in doubt and our current world markets are a reflection of our continuing struggle to achieve a value balance.