Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography


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Criticisms of the Malthusian Theory of Population Professional achievements

The young Malthus was educated largely at home until his admission to Jesus College, Cambridge, in There he studied a wide range of subjects and took prizes in Latin and Greek, graduating in He earned his master of arts degree in , was elected a fellow of Jesus College in , and took holy orders in This view ran somewhat counter to the views on poverty and population that Malthus published two years later. It was the first time in Great Britain that the words political economy had been used to designate an academic office. Malthus lived quietly at Haileybury for the remainder of his life, except for a visit to Ireland in and a trip to the Continent in In he met and became close friends with the economist David Ricardo.

In Malthus was elected a fellow of the Royal Society ; in he joined the Political Economy Club, whose members included Ricardo and James Mill ; and in he was elected one of the 10 royal associates of the Royal Society of Literature.

Thomas Malthus

Malthus was one of the cofounders, in , of the Statistical Society of London. Godwin, M.

Condorcet, and Other Writers. The work received wide notice. Briefly, crudely, yet strikingly, Malthus argued that infinite human hopes for social happiness must be vain, for population will always tend to outrun the growth of production. The increase of population will take place, if unchecked, in a geometric progression, while the means of subsistence will increase in only an arithmetic progression.

Population will always expand to the limit of subsistence.

Widely read for such works as Political Justice , Godwin took for granted the perfectibility of humankind and looked to a millennium in which rational people would live prosperously and harmoniously without laws and institutions. Unlike Godwin or, earlier, Rousseau , who viewed human affairs from a theoretical standpoint, Malthus was essentially an empiricist and took as his starting point the harsh realities of his time. His reaction developed in the tradition of British economics , which would today be considered sociological.

Thomas Robert Malthus - Wikipedia

The argument in the first edition of his work on population is essentially abstract and analytic. After further reading and travels in Europe, Malthus produced a subsequent edition , expanding the long pamphlet of into a longer book and adding much factual material and illustration to his thesis. At no point, even up to the final and massive sixth edition of , did he ever adequately set out his premises or examine their logical status. American sociologist and demographer Kingsley Davis remarked that, while Malthus based his theories on a strong empirical foundation, the theories tended to be weakest in their empiricism and strongest in their theoretical formulation.

For better or worse, the Malthusian theory of population was, nevertheless, incorporated into theoretical systems of economics. The Malthusian theory of population made a strong and immediate impact on British social policy. It had been believed that fertility itself added to national wealth; the Poor Laws perhaps encouraged large families with their doles.


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He continued publishing a variety of pamphlets and tracts on economics. In his summary Principles of Political Economy Considered with a View to Their Practical Application , Malthus went so far as to propose public works and private luxury investment as possible solutions for economic distress through their ability to increase demand and prosperity.

Then again, a fundamental criticism of Malthus was his failure to anticipate the agricultural revolution , which caused food production to meet or exceed population growth and made prosperity possible for a larger number of people.

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For example, the price of wheat in the United States, adjusted for inflation , has fallen by about two-thirds in the last years. The incidence of famine has diminished, with famines in the modern era typically caused by war or by destructive government policies, such as price controls on food. Malthus also failed to anticipate the widespread use of contraceptives that brought about a decline in the fertility rate. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.

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  • Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. See Article History. Top Questions. Read More on This Topic. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. This hastily written pamphlet had as its principal object….

    Thomas Malthus was a political economist where he became well known around the world because of his economical views on population growth. Thomas Malthus was born on February 13, in Surrey, England. He was known as Thomas Malthus but throughout his lifetime he went by his middle name, which was Robert.

    Growing in his young years he was a very bright child where he excelled in mathematics. He married his first cousin Harriet Eckersall, on April 12, In Malthus became a English professor teaching children, political economics. His main influences for his work on economical views were Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Thomas Malthus died on December 23, in Bath England. When the theory was first written, the writing took many by surprise. Many faulted him but they looked in depth of his theory and thought about what he wrote, whether this can be true or not.

    Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography
    Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography
    Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography
    Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography
    Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography
    Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography Thomas Malthus - A Short Biography

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