My Beautiful Wickedness


Tulip Time
May 12, 2007, 8:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I live in one of the tulip capitals of North America, smack in the middle of the former Dutch empire. Dutch colonial history could be sooooo cool (it’s a huge maritime empire that spans the globe — it’s heterodox in the extreme — it’s got slavery, piracy, uptight Protestants, ugly massacres, economic disasters, naval battles, art, haranguing ministers, peasant uprisings, legal battles galore), but it’s usually not. I read a bunch of Dutch colonial history in grad school, but…well, neayah. I hadn’t come across anything that really wowed me. I hung around with the economic historians (where I developed my bemused fondness for the wrongheadedness of libertarians), many of whom studied the East India Trade and specialized in theories of the firm. So, it was at their instigation that I began reading about Tulipmania. Now this…this was cool. People speculating themselves into bankruptcy over something with no utility whatsoever except beauty. The story of Tulipmania spoke to my love of the absurd.

Well, if historians can be believed, this one thinks Tulipmania is a myth.

Crap. I’m going to be going to the Tulip Festival tomorrow with history wonky sorts, all of whom are going to be joking about Tulipmania (I know these people) — and I’ll have to tell them that the research indicates that the Dutch weren’t fools for beauty after all.

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