In 1637 in Holland a single tulip bulb was briefly worth more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled worker. Indeed for a long time the volatile rise and fall of the Dutch tulip market was held up as an example of the first economic bubble, where fortunes were made and lost in an illogical craze, similar to the sub-prime mortgage fiasco of recent days which our governments are still using, to beat us over the heads with their austerity sticks.
Nowadays the madness and greed of your average banker and hedge fund swindler make the activities of the elite of Holland back then look like a squabble in a kindergarten. What’s not in dispute though is the beauty of the thing they were fighting and speculating about. As Sarah and I saw today on her allotment here in Liverpool.
It’s late April and the tulips are out. Let’s have a look around.
Let’s just look. All these glorious things I’m about to show you are different sorts of tulips, evolved from the little Turkish bulbs and wild flowers that caused such a fuss in 17th century Holland.
Beautiful things. And in amongst them on Plot 44 Sarah has planted two examples of Species Tulip. The very wild flowers first brought into Western Europe from Turkey. Both much smaller than their developed cousins.
Actually Sarah thinks it might be called ‘Red Riding Hood.’ But as a fan of the writer David Peace I’m renaming it after his Red Riding Quartet.