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The Real Story of the Dutch Tulip Bubble Is Even More Fascinating Than the Myth You’ve Heard

Tulipmania didn’t send the Netherlands into a recession or bankrupt anyone. But it did have other consequences for Dutch society. 

The real story of the tulip bubble starts the same place as the myth: In the court of the Ottoman emperor in Constantinople. Here, Western traders are believed to have encountered the flowers and brought them back to Europe. Tulips arrived at the fashion-forward French court, and then, during the 1500s, made their way to the Dutch elite.

”Tulips are fashionable because there’s a fashion for science and natural history, especially among people who are humanistically educated and relatively well off. One of the things that I found is that people who are collectors of tulip bulbs often are collectors of paintings as well,” Anne Goldgar says.

During the early 1600’s tulips gain popularity and prices start soaring. This is further complicated by the arrival of the plague in the 1630s. However, not the way many people think.

“The argument which is usually put forward is that people thought they were about to die, and therefore they might as well throw their money away on something as stupid as a tulip. That doesn’t represent what I’m seeing in the archives. It seems to me that people are relatively willing for life to go on despite the epidemic.”

What do you think?

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