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Business Booms, Busts, & Bubbles: A Resource Guide on Economic Manias & Crashes

This research guide brings together background and resources on a few economic bubbles with a lasting impact like the South Sea Bubble, Tulip Mania, dot-com bubbles, and stock market crashes, as well as historical business cycles in general.


J.S. Pughe. A dangerous bubble. October 22, 1902. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

There are a number of economic events that have driven the world economy and a few of them have left a lasting impact and continue to be of interest to students, investors, and general researchers. This is particularly true when it comes to economic bubbles and manias.

For purposes of this guide, bubbles and manias refer to those situations where there is intense activity in a speculative investment opportunity and where the investment prices in the stock, assets, or market exceed their fundamental value. This creates an unsustainable "bubble" that bursts. Additionally, one of the hallmarks of these events is that these "bubbles" may have only been seen as a bubbles in retrospect.

This guide is intended for those researching economic history, but it is more specifically focused on economic bubbles, booms, and manias that primarily impacted the United States or have become case studies of the phenomenon. The general resources section offers materials that cover booms and busts as a general topic instead of specific events. A select few well-known examples of economic bubbles covered in separate sections include the following:

  • Tulip Mania. In the early 17th century the popular tulip bulb became the object of an investment frenzy.
  • Mississippi Company. The Mississippi Company owned a monopoly on French colonies in North America and the West Indies and was associated with John Law who was then the Controller General of Finances of France.
  • South Sea bubble. The South Sea Company British joint-stock company founded in January 1711 that was granted a monopoly in trade with the west coast of the Americas and many rushed to invest.
  • Stock Market panics. While Wall Street is speculative, there were a few notable events including the Panic of 1873, Panic of 1907, Stock Market Crash (1929), and Black Monday (1987).
  • Dot-com bubble. This stock market bubble in the late 1990's was a result of excessive speculation on tech companies.
  • Real Estate crash. From 1997-2005 real estate prices in the United States rose but prices peaked in 2006 and then collapsed.

We also offer a list of databases and catalog searches for further research. If you need assistance please use our Ask a Librarian service.

About the Business Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Business Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.