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Thomas Robert Malthus

Thomas Robert Malthus Thomas Robert Malthus[3†]

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an influential English economist and demographer, known for Malthusianism, his theory that population growth surpasses food supply, leading to famine. His ideas profoundly impacted demography, macroeconomics, and influenced Charles Darwin. His major works include "An Essay on the Principle of Population" and "Principles of Political Economy". Malthus's theories remain subjects of debate, shaping economics and demography today[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Thomas Robert Malthus was born on February 13/14, 1766, in Rookery, near Dorking, Surrey, England[2†]. He was the sixth of seven children[2†][4†]. His father, a friend of the Scottish philosopher and skeptic David Hume, was deeply influenced by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau[2†]. This liberal influence may have been the source of the elder Malthus’s ideas about educating his son[2†].

Malthus received his early education at home in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire, and later attended the Warrington Academy from 1782[2†][5†]. As a young scholar, Malthus excelled in his studies of literature and mathematics[2†][4†]. He was admitted to Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1784[2†]. There he studied a wide range of subjects and took prizes in Latin and Greek, graduating in 1788[2†]. He earned his master of arts degree in 1791[2†][6†], despite a speech impediment caused by a hare-lip and cleft palate[2†][4†].

In 1793, Malthus was elected a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge[2†][6†]. He took holy orders in 1797[2†]. His early academic development was marked by his support for the newly proposed Poor Laws, which recommended establishing workhouses for the impoverished, as evidenced by his unpublished pamphlet “The Crisis,” written in 1796[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Thomas Robert Malthus began his career by releasing "An Essay on the Principle of Population"[7†]. This work was initially received fairly, but it gained significant recognition in the field of economics in the 20th century[7†]. The essay proposed that population growth would always tend to outrun the food supply, leading to widespread famine and death[7†][3†][2†]. This thinking is commonly referred to as Malthusianism[7†][3†][2†].

Malthus was elected a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1793[7†][3†][2†]. He took holy orders in 1797[7†][3†][2†]. His early career was marked by his support for the newly proposed Poor Laws, which recommended establishing workhouses for the impoverished[7†][2†]. This support was evidenced by his unpublished pamphlet “The Crisis,” written in 1796[7†][2†].

In addition to “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, Malthus also wrote "Principles of Political Economy"[7†][3†][2†]. Both works laid the foundation for his theory on population growth and its implications for society[7†][3†][2†].

Malthus’s theories continue to be a topic of debate and study in the fields of economics and demography[7†][3†][2†]. His work has left a lasting legacy and continues to influence these fields today[7†][3†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Thomas Robert Malthus’s most significant works include “An Essay on the Principle of Population” and "Principles of Political Economy"[2†].

Malthus’s works have had a profound impact on the fields of economics and demography, and his theories continue to be discussed and debated today[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Thomas Robert Malthus’s theories have been subject to extensive analysis and evaluation over the years. His ideas were initially met with a great deal of criticism, and he was often accused of inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty[11†][12†]. However, some scholars have challenged these views, arguing that Malthus’s work was often misunderstood[11†][13†][11†][12†].

Malthus’s theories were seen as pessimistic and were often associated with the capitalist society’s efforts to oppress the poor[11†][13†]. His mathematical analysis, which suggested that food supply would not be able to keep up with population growth, was criticized as it did not take into account the potential for technological advances in agriculture[11†][13†].

Despite the criticism, Malthus’s work had a significant influence on various fields, including economics, demography, and even biology. Charles Darwin, for instance, was influenced by Malthus’s ideas on population growth and scarcity of resources[11†][13†].

In the 20th century, Malthus’s ideas experienced a resurgence with the advent of neo-Malthusianism, which applied his theories to modern concerns about overpopulation and resource scarcity[11†][13†]. Some scholars have also argued that Malthus’s work needs to be understood in the context of the historical and cultural conditions of his time[11†][2†][14†].

In conclusion, while Malthus’s theories have been subject to criticism and debate, they have also had a profound impact on our understanding of population growth and its relationship to resources[11†][13†].

Personal Life

Thomas Malthus led a fulfilling personal life. He married his cousin, Harriet, in 1804[4†][15†]. The couple was blessed with two daughters and a son[4†][15†]. His son, Henry, rose to the rank of a Vicar of Effingham, Surrey, in 1835, and of Donnington, West Sussex, in 1837[4†][15†].

In addition to his family life, Malthus also had a notable professional life outside of his economic theories. He took a job as a professor at the East India Company College in England[4†].

Malthus’s personal life, much like his professional one, was marked by his dedication to his work and his family. His contributions to economics and demography were undoubtedly influenced by his personal experiences and values[4†][2†][3†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Thomas Robert Malthus’s views on population and economic development had a profound and enduring impact on subsequent generations[5†]. His work laid the theoretical foundation for the prevailing wisdom on global hunger and famines for nearly two centuries[5†].

Malthus argued that population, tending to grow at a geometric rate, will always press against the food supply, which at best increases only arithmetically, leading to the conclusion that poverty and misery are forever inescapable[5†][16†]. This thinking is commonly referred to as Malthusianism[5†][2†].

His theories continue to be a significant part of economic and demographic discussions to this day[5†]. His work has influenced a wide range of fields, from economics to demography, and his ideas continue to be relevant in discussions about population growth and sustainability[5†][3†].

Malthus’s legacy is not just confined to his theories. His dedication to his work and his unwavering belief in his theories have left a lasting impression on the field of economics[5†]. Despite the controversy and debate surrounding his ideas, Malthus’s influence on economic thought is undeniable[5†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Sciencing - Thomas Malthus: Biography, Population Theory & Facts [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Thomas Malthus: English economist and demographer [website] - link
  3. Wikipedia (English) - Thomas Robert Malthus [website] - link
  4. ThoughtCo - Thomas Malthus [website] - link
  5. British Heritage - Thomas Robert Malthus - The Population Growth Trap, 1798 [website] - link
  6. BBC History - Historic Figures - Thomas Malthus (1766 - 1834) [website] - link
  7. SunSigns - Thomas Robert Malthus Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  8. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Thomas Robert Malthus [website] - link
  9. Stanford University SearchWorks - The works of Thomas Robert Malthus [electronic resource] in SearchWorks catalog [website] - link
  10. The Project Gutenberg - Books by Malthus, T. R. (Thomas Robert) (sorted by popularity) [website] - link
  11. Project MUSE - Johns Hopkins University Press - The Economics of Thomas Robert Malthus [website] - link
  12. Google Books - The Economics of Thomas Robert Malthus - Samuel Hollander [website] - link
  13. eNotes - Thomas Robert Malthus Analysis [website] - link
  14. Princeton University Press - The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus [website] - link
  15. The Famous People - Thomas Robert Malthus Biography [website] - link
  16. Britannica - Thomas Malthus on population [website] - link
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