Boom and Bust Now Available in Paperback

The paperback version of William Quinn and John Turner’s book Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles is released this week. Published by Cambridge University, their book has received widespread critical acclaim. Martin Wolf, when choosing it as a Financial Times Best Economics Book of 2020 described it as “A lovely book. It describes and draws lessons from ten financial manias, from the South Sea Bubble to Casino Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics.” John Plender in the Financial Times said that “for anyone interested in financial history, Boom and Bust is essential reading.” Alastair Haimes, writing in The Critic described it as “an action-packed romp through ten of the biggest bubbles and busts of the past three centuries … Some (most) finance books are arid and hard-going; this one I couldn’t put down.” In her review in the Times Literary Supplement, Rebecca Spang described it as “an instant classic.”

In their book, Quinn and Turner ask the following questions: why do stock and housing markets sometimes experience amazing booms followed by massive busts and why is this happening more and more frequently? In order to answer these questions, Quinn and Turner take us on a riveting ride through the long run of financial bubbles, visiting, among other places, Paris and London in 1720, Latin America in the 1820s, Melbourne in the 1880s, New York in the 1920s, Tokyo in the 1980s, Silicon Valley in the 1990s and Shanghai in the 2000s. As they do so, they help us understand why bubbles happen, and why some have catastrophic economic, social and political consequences whilst others have actually benefitted society. They reveal that bubbles start when investors and speculators react to new technology or political initiatives, showing that our ability to predict future bubbles will ultimately come down to being able to predict these sparks.

The long-run perspective developed in Boom and Bust has helped us think about what has been going on in the stock market during the pandemic as well as with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum. The coverage of Boom and Bust in the Wall Street Journal, BBC World, El Pais, MoneyWeek, and New York Times draws on the framework developed in the book to suggest that we might be living in the midst of another bubble. Quinn and Turner for their part are more circumspect when it comes to applying the framework developed in their book to what is happening in markets today. They have written about the potential of a tech bubble, meme stocks such as GameStop, and the potential of a roaring twenties 2.0 for the Economics Observatory. Quinn has spoken on the At the Margin podcast about whether cryptocurrency is a bubble or a fraud. 

Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles is available from all good retailers in hardback, paperback, audiobook, and e-book formats.

William Quinn is lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and a research associate of the Queen’s University Centre for Economic History. 

John Turner is a director of the LRI, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast, and a founder of the Queen’s University Centre for Economic History.