The Other History

Author(s): 
George Lindsay
Publisher: 
Vantage Press
Edition / Year: 
1969

The Other HistoryAs a schoolboy I did not do well at History. Maybe things are different now, but in those far-off days to succeed in the subject one had to be able to memorise a large number of seemingly arbitrary, unrelated facts. I found the lack of pattern in the subject an obstacle to understanding, and turned for comfort to Maths, where all is clean and tidy.

In this book, George Lindsay comes to the rescue of we lovers of numbers. Look, he says, history is just a series of cycles. Forget about all that messy human stuff about the causes of events and concentrate on the peaks and troughs. And, since these cycles continue into the future in the same way, history becomes a way to predict events as well as analyse them in retrospect. He begins by identifying one type of event as most important:

Our starting point is always an agitation. An agitation is a heightened consciousness and increased activity among a large number of people at a specific moment in time, It is normally directed toward a certain end. An agitation may be physical in nature, in which case it usually involves bloodshed, or it may be intellectual or emotional.

Note Lindsay's precise, scientific language. The next concept to grasp is the interval. Lindsay says that agitations occur about 40 years apart. So for example the French Revolution of 1789 is followed by the July Revolution of 1830. His next example is less clear: he says that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was somehow completed in 1957, though the only actual event of 1957 he gives is the launch of Sputnik. One might almost get the idea that Lindsay is trying to fit the facts of history to his theory, rather than the other way round. Fortunately it is comfortably elastic with plenty of room for adjustment:

The number of years we count forward from an agitation varies. It is often about 40 years, but can be as little as 39 or as much as 41. In many other cases, the median figure is 36 years, which can be as little as 35 or as much as 37 years.

George LindsayWhere the agitation is an unsucessful revolt it must be treated differently, he says. These events supposedly occur about 55-57 years apart, but just in case the facts prove recalcitrant:

There's also a third interval, one with the rather wide latitude of 64 to 69 years.

Lindsay's approach to history, with its need to tie events together regardless of meaning or any common causation, leads him to make some bizarre connections when he attempts to bring artistic endeavours into the picture:

Tennyson's Poems of 1842 was a literary landmark. The British suffered a damaging defeat at Majuba in 1881.

Is there a military defeat 40 years after every "literary landmark"? I suppose there must be. There's certainly no end of connections once you start to look for them:

Henry James wrote of relays of "ambassadors" who crossed the ocean to save a young American from being corrupted by an alien culture. Count the 40-year interval and you come to 1941. Special Ambassador Kurusu joined the resident Ambassador Nomura in Washington, and they warned our heedless government that the United States would cross the ocean and intervene in Asia at its own peril. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor shortly afterward.

Lindsay arrived at his ideas about history from a background in stock price forecasting. He made his living as what is called a "technical analyst", one who tries to guess at future prices by looking at charts of past ones. As he puts it here:

Over a span of two decades, I have made perhaps 300 distinct predictions of stock prices which have come true with varying degrees of accuracy.

This implies, though it does not say so directly, that he did better than chance in his forecasting. If so, why he did not simply invest his own money and become vastly rich is a bit of a mystery. (He could have turned one dollar into millions if the profit on each of his 300 predictions was anything over a mere 5%, for example) .

Technical analysis, despite a lack of evidence in its favour, is still going strong. There's a lot of books and software on the market supposedly to aid the would-be investor, though again it is strange that those behind them don't keep their valuable "secrets" to themselves. Philanthropists all, I presume.

Technical history - which is what Lindsay also called his "other history" - has definitely not caught on in the same way. Too many conservative thinkers unwilling to give up the idea that events have causes, the fools. Since 2009 marks the book's 40th birthday, I boldly predict that in that year, or the next, or 2023, or thereabouts, something will happen that is vaguely related. Then you'll all believe!

Comments

"Since 2009 marks the book's 40th birthday, I boldly predict that in that year, or the next, or 2023, or thereabouts, something will happen that is vaguely related. Then you'll all believe!" Yes, well, 40 years after the book came out, something related DID happen --- this entry in Odd Books! Aha! See? Q.E.D. --------- Christopher I. Lehrich Department of Religion, Boston University
I have heard a more serious hypothesis that religious "awakenings" happen every 40 years. I do not however remember where it came from. I wonder if the 40 years idea came from this book.
I too have heard the religious "awakenings" pattern hypothesis. I think I read it in a high school textbook in 2002.
I have not seen this book, but I am familiar with the author's three articles published in Investors' Intelligence. Lindsay's forecasting ability was really quite good. His top-to-top counts, counts from the midsection, three peaks and a domed house, and daily forecasting methodology actually work and are vastly superior to moving averages, oscillators, or standard technical analysis patterns in predicting market turning points. In early 1982, when the US stock market was in frightening retreat, Lindsay stated on Louis Ruckeyser's television show that the market would bottom in August of that year and proceed into a multi-year bullish movement. His prediction was, as usual, right on the mark. He died under somewhat mysterious circumstances at age 70 in 1987.

Interesting Steve. You say his forecasting ability was "really quite good": is there any empirical study that shows this?

(And whatever mystery there might be about his death, did he die rich? If his record was even modestly good, he should have been a billionaire, shouldn't he?)

I like the blurb on the front: "George Lindsay has adapted to history the method which has proved so spectacular in forecasting the stock market". I suggest, in the light of recent events, that those methods are somewhat "sub-prime".
George Lindsay was my uncle. He died at age 79 of a heart attack in August 1987 and under no mysterious circumstance to the family's knowledge. His health had not been good as of February of that year, so his death was not unexpected. George had a partner that did steal a lot of George's money. He was very multi-talented having also been Macy's New York chief commercial artist for a few years. He was much more proud and fascinated with the concepts he discovered, than ever making a fortune from them. He would very openly share them with associates and friends. He had a totally photographic memory for what was on a written page. His opinion on the stock market was highly thought of. He had lunch once a month with Merrill Lynch's chief technical analyst for many years, for example. And in year 41 from the publication of "The Other History" a gentlemen in Seattle is writing a 40,000 biography of George Lindsay!

Thanks for the info, James. I'm sure your uncle was a very decent and clever chap but equally, "The Other History" is bunk, with no more value than astrology. It's pretty clear from reading it that it's of a case of the facts being made to fit the theory rather than the other way round.

The whole field of so-called "technical analysis" is of dubious merit as well. Is there any solid evidence for its effectiveness? I'd be astonished if there were.

Alfred, Professor Andrew Lo of MIT has several papers and books published on the question of whether technical analysis has merit. His conclusion is that, yes, the markets are NOT random and they do trend. That is proof that TA can work. Like most disciplines, it depends on who is doing the work. Lindsay was an amazing analyst. His work does not lend itself to a 'quick read' as he was a lot of things, but a writer he was not. With Lindsay, you are a serious student or you really have no clue as to what he was doing. There is no in-between. I am currently working on a book about his work which started out as a simple re-write of the newsletters that a previous poster mentioned; An attempt to make those writings more accessible. As people have made other, old newsletters available to me, the picture is becoming clearer. There was so much more to his work than what is available in those 4 newsletters. At the time of his death, he was working on a followup to TheOtherHistory. My sense, from his personal correspondence, is that he realized the book wasn't "getting through" and he needed to present something to the public which was more accessible. I've been able to find a few chapters of that manuscript but not everything that I think he finished prior to his death. If anyone has any leads on that, please contact me through my website. Finally, as hard as it may be for some to believe, not everyone is motivated by the almighty Dollar. Due to the SEC he was limited to publishing recommendations or trade for himself - but not both. To do otherwise is considered "front running" Ed Carlson

Ed, I am sure that markets can trend and not be random. Human beings are involved.

TA, however, is supposed to work without consideration of the human factor, in which case it ought to be doable by machines. Either it's about the numbers or it's a matter of judgement: which is it? The descriptions of TA that I see seem to try to have it both ways. Just like astrology, as I pointed out earlier.

And also like astrology, studies that show a possible mechanism by which something might work are not equivalent to a demonstration of it actually working in practice. That's what I would like to see: figures that show that TA, in general, performs better than a coin-toss. Sadly you can't say, after the fact, that person X was a good analyst on the basis of their results: if TA is just guesswork, then there will be some who get better results than others simply by pure luck.

If I come to you and say I can make myself invisible and then quote some research that shows invisibility is theoretically possible, would you be satisfied at that? I would hope not.

Furthermore, I am not persuaded by the suggestion that because Lindsay's work is not easy to understand, that somehow makes it more profound. I have lots of books here that are difficult reading. That does not mean they necessarily contain any form of truth.

Finally, the problem with The Other History is not that it's not accessible, it's that it's complete balderdash. A rule that can work both ways, and that has to be adjusted post hoc accordingly, is not a rule, it's a delusion.

Alfred, I've never heard of TA being about numbers. That's sounds more like the ways of Wall Street and their 'funnymental' analysis techniques. I've always thought of TA as an attempt to track human behavior. Not to work without it. Per your astrology comment, I agree. Correlation does not imply causality. For TA I've given you a source of studies in my previous posting showing TA works better than a coin toss. "Furthermore, I am not persuaded by the suggestion that because Lindsay's work is not easy to understand, that somehow makes it more profound." I did not mean to imply that. I had merely hoped you would ask yourself if you truly gave it your all before making your conclusion. Only you can answer that... and you can only answer that for yourself. You obviously have and that's fine. I'm sure you've reached the same conclusion as the rest of the 'sheeple'. You didn't answer my question as to whether you want to sell your copy of this 'balderdash' or if you know where any other copies can be found.

Ed, I find the term "sheeple" highly insulting. It's a way of labelling those who disagree with you as lesser mortals, unable to see a profound truth, rather than fellow rational beings who happen to read the evidence differently.

I might look further into TA given time - I do prefer to understand before I dismiss - but The Other History is bunk, pure and simple. It is a selective reading of the past to support a flaky hypothesis. Nothing you can say about it will change my opinion, sorry.

I got the idea that TA was just about the numbers and not about behaviour because that's a major part of Lindsay's thesis in his book - that history can be seen as a series of patterns, reminiscent of biorhythms on a macro scale, and that you don't have to examine human motivation to predict the future. But he does a pretty rotten job of finding these patterns in the past, let alone the future.

For someone who calls the work of others "bunk" and "balderdash" you seem to have a thin skin. Once you start flinging feces with the monkeys, you should expect to have a little flung back. Granted, Lindsay never gets into why those time periods work (described with numbers) , but even your use of the term "BIO-rhythms" implies a human influence. The patterns, which TA is used to discern, are created by human emotion (fear and greed mostly) and that is what TA uses to make market-related decisions. It might help to think of TA as concerned less with the motivation of the individual sheep :) and more with the actions of the herd. Where someone (or a great many people) choose to invest their money is far more important than what they might say, for instance. So why have you created an entire web page for a book you hate? Now you've got me quite interested in your motivations. And why no response to my desire to buy copies of this book?

Ed, some things are simply bunk. A supposed theory of history which contradicts itself and explains nothing, for instance.

My "thin skin" is not for myself, but for all the others so rudely dismissed by those who commonly use the term I objected to. I have been insulted far more vigorously than that on this site and elsewhere, and I couldn't give a shit about it. It's actually quite hard to get my goat, but I do enjoy a bit of verbal sparring, as long as it doesn't go on too long and get boring.

(Watch out, though, I don't play fair.)

I don't hate the book, I just think it is rather silly. It's not worthy of hate: it's simply not that important. But that doesn't mean I consider Lindsay himself less worthy of respect: plenty of excellent people get foolish ideas from time to time. Don't we all? I only concern myself with those that end up in print.

You can stop badgering me about selling the book, now. Take a hint.

After all the over-the-top commentary and now you tell me you've been leaving hints? I too have enjoyed the verbal sparring... but I always try to play fair. Have never understand what fulfillment comes, otherwise. I sure would like to know why the special page at this website for a book you hate. Have I missed a hint there, too?

Ed you not only can't take a hint, you seemingly can't read. I don't hate the book and I said so. I think it is wrong, bizarrely, absurdly wrong. And that's why it's here, on a website devoted to bizarre and absurd books.

"I've always thought of TA as an attempt to track human behavior." The trouble with such optimistic creeds is that they are oversimplified. When people know they are being modelized, they adapt to that modelization and try to exploit it or beat it. So it will always ultimately fail, because it is based on a view of human behaviour as a closed system. It's pseudo-science.
Ha! That hadn't even occured to me, Jim. That is going in the book along with the events of 11/11/10. The rest of you will have to read the book to find out about that... or at least the prologue while standing in Barnes and Noble.
Alfred, how did you obtain your copy of TheOtherHistory? Do you know where other copies are available? Would you like to sell yours? Ed Carlson ed@seattletechnicaladvisors.com

I have not read all the commentaries here but I want to add anyway that seeing George Linday's interview on Wall Street Week and his accurate preciction several months before the bottom of a vicious bear market in 1982 has given me a great appreciacion of his understanding of the markets (no small task) and his beauty as a person.

Lindsay famously drew a chart of his expectations for the stock market over the entirety of the decade of the 1970s and it was remarkably accurate. The only "miss" of any consequence was the severity of the decline into the 1974/5 bear marekt low. But, as I recall, the actual timing of the peaks and valleys and most of the prices he expected . . . were spot on. This, as much as anything, made him famous for his forecasting abilities. Note, in The Other History book, Lindsay appears to predict the end of the old USSR toward the back of the book and at the time it actually sort of dissolved. I don't have my copy any longer but it would be nice if someone would show that prediction here. Finally, Lindsay was more of an "artist" than a "quant." His was based on seeing things others could not. It makes his work hard to duplicate. And, his very best advice, I think, was that an investor could study the markets and would likely have one great investment opportunity over a lifetime . . . to test his findings and convictions, one that could make the investor very wealthy. This is so true for the current generation where we had the great bull market of 1982 to 1999. If folks of this generation, in general, were going to make a real killing in markets, that was the likely point they'd do it; few have managed so well since then and by the time the next one rolls around, our old-age risk taking propensity will likely see us on the sidelines as observers. I suppose we will see another such event that will take markets down to levels that for those who see it, will make the wealthy. Lindsay was one of a kind with a fabulous record, his famous prediction almost to the day and to the DJIA point where he said the low would be made months in advance, this when the world was ready to give up on stocks, established his bona fides. By the way, a video of that prediction floats around on the Internet and is worth a look. BR

Sorry, Brad, this doesn't add up. If Lindsay was so accurate in his forecasting as you say then by following his predictions an investor would have been able not to have had "one great investment opportunity over a lifetime" but a consistent gain over the market that would amount to billions for a modest investment. I haven't seen any evidence that this was the case. And being right when others are wrong doesn't necessarily mean you have special wisdom: make a lot of predictions by whatever method and sooner or later that'll happen. People remember the spectacular hits but not the many misses, which is why some still regard the ludicrous Edgar Cayce as a prophet, for example.

Hie Alfred Armstrong can i have a pdf copy of the other history so that i can judge for myself

Sure, if you want to pay for the cost of scanning it.

yes i can pay you can send the payment details on my email above

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