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Malthus An Essay on the Principle of Population

ISBN-10: 0521429722
ISBN-13: 9780521429726
Edition: 1992
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Description: This volume makes available to a student audience one of the most controversial and misunderstood works published during the last two hundred years. Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population began life in 1798 as a polite attack on some  More...

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Book details

List price: $29.99
Copyright year: 1992
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 8/28/1992
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 430
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.75" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.100
Language: English

This volume makes available to a student audience one of the most controversial and misunderstood works published during the last two hundred years. Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population began life in 1798 as a polite attack on some post-French-revolutionary speculations on the theme of social and human perfectibility. It remains one of the most powerful statements of the limits to human hopes set by the tension between population growth and natural resources. This edition is based on the authoritative variorum of the mature versions of the Essay published over the period 1803 to 1826. The introduction, notes and bibliographic apparatus are aimed specifically at a modern audience interested in how Malthusianism impinges on the history of political thought.

Thomas Robert Malthus was born to a wealthy family near Surrey, England. His father, the eccentric Daniel Malthus, was friends with both David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Malthus was educated privately at home and, at age 13, began two years of study in residence with Richard Graves, a Protestant minister near Bath. He excelled in history, classics, and fighting. In a letter to Daniel Malthus on the progress of his son, Graves stated that young Thomas "loves fighting for fighting's sake, and delights in bruising. . . ." In 1783, Malthus enrolled in a religious academy for Protestant dissenters; when it failed the same year, he became the private student of a radical Unitarian minister. At age 18, he enrolled at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics and the classics. He graduated from Cambridge in 1788 and became an ordained minister in the Church of England in 1791. Malthus and his father frequently discussed the issues of the day. When the elder Malthus became fascinated with the utopian philosophy of the popular William Godwin, which preached a vision of peace, prosperity, and equality for all, the younger Malthus expressed his doubts in a manuscript intended only for his father. His father suggested, however, that it be published and so "An Essay on the Principle of Population As It Affects the Future Improvement of Society" appeared in 1798. The book was an instant success. Well written, it argued that population tended to grow at a geometric (exponential) rate, whereas the resources needed to support the population would only grow at an arithmetic (linear) rate. Eventually, society would not have the resources to support its population, and the result would be misery, poverty, and a subsistence standard of living for the masses. "An Essay on the Principle of Population" thrust Malthus into the public eye and dealt such a lethal blow to utopian visions that economics was soon called "the dismal science." In 1805, Malthus became the first person in England to receive the title of political economist when he was appointed professor of history and political economy at the East India College. In 1811, he met David Ricardo, and the two soon became lifelong friends and professional rivals. In 1820, Malthus published "Principles of Political Economy," a sometimes obscure but far-reaching treatment of economics that advocated a form of national income accounting, made advances in the theory of rent, and extended the analysis of supply and demand. Today, Malthus is more remembered for his views on population than for his views on economics. Even so, his other achievements have not gone unnoticed. John Maynard Keynes paid the ultimate tribute when he wrote:"If only Malthus, instead of Ricardo, had been the parent stem from which nineteenth-century economics proceeded, what a much wiser and richer place the world would be today!"

Acknowledgements and notes on the text
Principle events in the life of Robert Malthus
Biographical notes
Guide to further reading
Essay on the Principle of Population

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