Escaping Malthus: Population Explosion and Human Movement, 1760–1884

Ernest Benz

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199237395
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Escaping Malthus: Population Explosion and Human Movement, 1760–1884

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This article focuses the theory of Malthus and the arguments of his Essay on the Principle of Population. This famous essay colored the thinking and actions of nineteenth-century householders and policy-makers. Vulgar Malthusian ideology missed the mark through an over-simplification of complex human behaviour, but general practice embodied his norms from 1760 to 1884. Even as the accuracy of the Malthusian model waned in terms of his description of marriage and reproduction at the end of the 1800s, its hold on the popular imagination persisted. Malthus bewitched the people with a picture. In 1798 Malthus proffered a schematic objection to their blueprints for perfecting humanity. Malthus postulated that the ‘passion between the sexes’ could unleash human ‘prolifick powers’ to reproduce at geometric rates, while technology generated merely arithmetic increases in the quantities of food necessary for human survival. An analysis of Malthusianism in practice concludes this article.

Keywords: theory of Malthus; ideology; Malthusianism; population; human movement

Article.  7232 words. 

Subjects: History

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