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Malthus, Utopians, and Economists

A Research Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78441-858-8, eISBN: 978-1-78441-857-1

Publication date: 8 April 2015


This paper compares the contexts of the writing of T. R. Malthus’s first edition of An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798); its reception by William Godwin, to whom the Essay was addressed; its interpretation by naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace; and its interpretation by modern commentators Kenneth Boulding and A. M. C. Waterman. The analysis helps explain how an essay that was written to defend social and economic institutions from critiques in utopian visions associated with the French Revolution came to be regarded as a model predicting overpopulation and exhaustion of natural resources.




The author thanks Sergio Cremaschi, David Levy, Anthony Waterman, John Wood, and participants of ESHET 2013 and the Summer Institute for the History of Economics 2013 for comments.


Hammond, J.D. (2015), "Malthus, Utopians, and Economists", A Research Annual (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 33), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 179-207.



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