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The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus:
Rereading the Principle of Population
Alison Bashford & Joyce E. Chaplin

Paperback | October 2017 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691177915
368 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
Hardcover | 2016 | $45.00 | £37.95 | ISBN: 9780691164199
368 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 12 halftones. 2 tables.
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The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus is a sweeping global and intellectual history that radically recasts our understanding of Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population, the most famous book on population ever written or ever likely to be. Malthus's Essay is also persistently misunderstood. First published anonymously in 1798, the Essay systematically argues that population growth tends to outpace its means of subsistence unless kept in check by factors such as disease, famine, or war, or else by lowering the birth rate through such means as sexual abstinence.

Challenging the widely held notion that Malthus's Essay was a product of the British and European context in which it was written, Alison Bashford and Joyce Chaplin demonstrate that it was the new world, as well as the old, that fundamentally shaped Malthus's ideas. They explore what the Atlantic and Pacific new worlds—from the Americas and the Caribbean to New Zealand and Tahiti—meant to Malthus, and how he treated them in his Essay. Bashford and Chaplin reveal how Malthus, long vilified as the scourge of the English poor, drew from his principle of population to conclude that the extermination of native populations by European settlers was unjust.

Elegantly written and forcefully argued, The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus relocates Malthus's Essay from the British economic and social context that has dominated its reputation to the colonial and global history that inspired its genesis.

Alison Bashford is the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Jesus College. Her books include Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth. Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. Her books include The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius.


"In their important and persuasive new book, Bashford and Chaplin argue that, far from being an uncaring figure with tunnel vision, Malthus, properly understood, anticipates some of the most pressing international circumstances of our time. . . . [A] provocative and profound work."--Mark S. Micale, Times Literary Supplement

"Penetrating reappraisal of the philosopher's Essay on the Principle of Population."--Barb Kiser, Nature

"A towering publication of prime intellect if ever there was one."--David Marx Book Reviews

"Overall, an interesting, articulate work that effectively argues for placing Malthus in the context of world history."--Choice

"A bold, original and fascinating social and political history of an idea . . . the best text on understanding Malthus in a twenty-first–century globalized era."--Kate Fullagar, American Historical Review

"The authors’ research adds considerably to our understanding of what Malthus was about in his three-decade-long project of elaborating and illustrating the principle of population. . . . Very insightful."--Dennis Hodgson, Population and Development Review

"A richly sourced and finely detailed account of the writing, reading, and interpretation of Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population. . . . This is important work."--Daniel J. Hammond, EH.Net


"A richly contextualized and deeply researched portrait of Thomas Robert Malthus and his famously bleak analysis of the limits to population growth. This Malthus is steeped in the travel literature on the new worlds of the Americas and the Pacific, entangled in the West Indies sugar and slave trades, and in the thrall of theories of human development highly prejudicial to indigenous peoples under threat by European settlers. His Essay must now be read with new eyes."--Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

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Table of Contents:

Illustrations vii
Tables vii
Introduction 1
Part I: Population and the New World
1 Population, Empire, and America 17
2 Writing the Essay 54
Part II: New Worlds in the Essay, c. 1803
3 New Holland 91
4 The Americas 116
5 The South Sea 146
Part III: Malthus and the New World, 1803– 1834
6 Slavery and Abolition 171
7 Colonization and Emigration 201
8 The Essay in New Worlds 237
Coda 276
Acknowledgments 285
Abbreviations 287
Notes 289
Bibliography 317
Index 345

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