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Malthus: Man Or Monster?

Mass starvation. Hunger. Disease. Death. Misery. These are all outcomes foreseen by T. R. Malthus in his Essay on Population of 1798. The question remains whether these are true foretellings or merely pessimistic predictions. Thomas Robert Malthus was a radical thinker who, with his controversial theory, influenced not only his peers, but generations to come.

Thomas Robert Malthus was born on February 17,1766, in Surrey, England (“Malthus, T. R. SOURCE #3 np). His father was a “well-to-do gentleman (“Malthus, T.R.” Grolier 186),” and his godfather was Jean Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher (Rickard np). Malthus grew up during the Age of Reasoning, a time when many believed that humanity was approaching perfection (“Malthus, T.R.” Science Bios), but because he had been schooled in England after the French Revolution, Malthus became an “ultra-conservative pessimist (“Malthus, T.R.” 186).” He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest (Nicholls 321) and began to study population and economy. Malthus attended the University of Cambridge and graduated in 1786. He was made a Fellow of the Jesus College at Cambridge, and became the East India College’s first professor of political economy in 1793. Malthus wrote many books and essays including An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, An Inquiry into the Nature and Progress on Rent in 1815, Principles of Political Economy in 1827 and Definitions in Political Economy in 1827. Recently, some of his other writings have been published. These include Five Papers of Political Economy in 1953, The Occasional Papers of T.R. Malthus in 1963 and The Travel Diaries of T.R. Malthus in 1966 (“Malthus, T.R.” SOURCE #3 np). His first essay, An Essay on the Principle of Population remains the most famous and controversial of his writings.

The full title of Malthus’ first essay

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