Malthus Publishes *Essay on Population*

In 1798, under the Pseudonym of Joshua Johnson, British political economist, Thomas Malthus published the first edition of An Essay on the Principles of Population. Widely read and circulated, Malthus’s essay illustrated a pessimistic outlook on the future due to the repercussions of overpopulation.

In An Essay on the Principles of Population, Malthus highlights that the rate of population growth grows geometrically, while subsistence grows arithmetically. Therefore this inequality in rates would cause the population to outpace food output causing devastating effects such as famines and wars. 

Malthus identified two types of population checks to prevent overpopulation. The first type of check was called the “preventive check”, which advocated that individuals should use self- restraint, such as marrying at a later age or sexual abstinence. The second type of population check was called the “positive check”. Positive checks were checks that occurred naturally due to overpopulation, such as famine, disease and war.  

Written in a period of astounding development and social change, Malthus’s controversial works were extremely influential to British policy-makers. His writings were pivotal in the creation of new enactments that would help shape Britain’s 20th century social policy, such as the creation of the first modern, national UK census, which was conducted in 1801, and the influential passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. 


Brue, Stanley L., and Randy R. Grant. The Evolution of Economic Thought. Mason, OH: South-Western, 2013. Print.
“Thomas Robert Malthus – Malthusian Theory | English Economist and Demographer.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.
“Thomas Robert Malthus.” New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.