The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Bubbles of 1720
New Haven, Conn., April 10, 2008 – European and North American scholars from a wide variety of disciplines will converge on Yale University to explore the financial and cultural history of the first great international stock market crash.
The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Bubbles of 1720, an interdisciplinary symposium sponsored by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the International Center for Finance at the Yale School of Management, will take place April 17-19. For registration, conference agenda, and list of presenters, please visit the conference website.
The starting point for this conference is an extraordinary Dutch volume owned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library: The Great Mirror of Folly (or, in the original Dutch, Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid). Early versions of this folio were published in Amsterdam within months of the 1720 crashes that had rocked the stock markets of England, France, and the Dutch Provinces and affected investors throughout Europe. The folio deals in part with such well known events as the Mississippi and South Sea Bubbles. It is divided evenly between texts and images and includes plays, poems, songs, and prospectuses for new equity issues, as well as satirical and allegorical prints, maps, and decks of playing cards.
Not only is the book worth studying as a historical document, it is also notable for examples of the kind of textual and visual language we still use whenever a new “bubble” appears, starting with the metaphor of the bubble in relation to stock trading and the image of the unlucky investor falling to his death.
The symposium will be divided between plenary presentations and breakout sessions.
Robert J. Shiller will give the opening keynote address. Professor Shiller is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, and Professor of Finance and Fellow at the International Center for Finance, Yale School of Management. He is the author of Irrational Exuberance and of The New Financial Order: Risk in the 21st Century.
Other events will include a theatrical medley featuring the American premičre of Pieter Langendijk’s play, Arlequyn, Actionist (Arlequin, Stocktrader), written in 1720 and included in The Great Mirror of Folly. The performance will be directed by Jeffrey Leichman (Yale graduate student, Department of French). Translations are by Nienke Christine Venderbosch (Yale graduate student, Department of English).
The symposium is organized by William N. Goetzmann, Director of the International Center for Finance; Catherine Labio, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and French; K. Geert Rouwenhorst, Professor of Finance and Deputy Director of the International Center for Finance; and Timothy Young, Associate Curator, Modern Books and Manuscripts, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Tabitha Wilde, Director of Media Relations, Yale School of Management
Rebecca Martz, Public Relations Coordinator, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library