By Mike Dash
'A fascinating exploration of human greed and self-delusion and also a tribute to our ageless search for beauty' DEBORAH MOGGACH.In 1630s' Holland thousands of people, from the wealthiest merchants to the lowest street traders, were caught up in a frenzy of buying and selling. The object of the speculation was not oil or gold, but the tulip, a delicate and exotic bloom that had just arrived from the east. Over three years, rare tulip bulbs changed hands for sums that would have bought a house in Amsterdam: a single bulb could sell for more than £300,000 at today's prices. Fortunes were made overnight, but then lost when, within a year, the market collapsed.Mike Dash recreates this bizarre episode in European history, separating myth from reality. He traces the hysterical boom and devastating bust, bringing to life a colourful cast of characters, and beautifully evoking Holland's Golden Age.
By Piers Paul Read
The dramatic, ultimately tragic history of the Knights Templar, the largest and most powerful military order of the Crusades.Sifting myth from history, Piers Paul Read reveals the Templars - the multinational force of warrior monks, in their white tunics with red crosses over chainmail. They were not only unique among Christian institutions but constituted the first uniformed standing army in the western world and became pioneers of international banking. Expropriated by Philip IV of France in 1307, and confessing under torture to blasphemy, heresy and sodomy, the Order was finally suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1312. In a narrative that incorporates the story of the crusades and the many colourful characters who had links with the Templars, Piers Paul Read examines the question of their guilt and identifies their relevance to our own times.