Thomas Robert Malthus Criticism - Essay

G. J. Cady (essay date October 1931)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cady, G. J. “The Early American Reaction to the Theory of Malthus.” In Thomas Robert Malthus: Critical Assessments. Vol. 4, edited by John Cunningham Wood, pp. 18-42. London: Croom Helm, 1986.

[In the following essay, originally published in October, 1931, Cady examines pre-1840 American criticism of Malthus's theories, contending that much of it is based on misreadings.]

That which has passed and, in fact, still passes for Malthusianism in the mind of the man in the street, the social politician, the amateur economist, and, indeed, of the professional economist, has not infrequently been a very different thing from the theory advanced more than a century...

(The entire section is 11676 words.)

Frederick L. Beaty (essay date 1969)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Beaty, Frederick L. “Byron on Malthus and the Population Problem.” Keats-Shelley Journal 18 (1969): 17-26.

[In the following essay, Beaty investigates the references to Malthus in Lord Byron's correspondence and poetry.]

Both the letters and poetry of Byron contain references to Thomas Robert Malthus that were immediately clear and meaningful to early nineteenth-century readers. Malthus's concisely phrased hypothesis about the relationship of population growth to the means of subsistence and his incisive theories on political economy made him so famous in his own day that thoughtful contemporaries were obliged to read his work. If for no other reason,...

(The entire section is 4106 words.)

D. L. LeMahieu (essay date July-September 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: LeMahieu, D. L. “Malthus and the Theology of Scarcity.” Journal of the History of Ideas 40, no. 3 (July-September 1979): 467-74.

[In the following essay, LeMahieu discusses Malthus's attempt, in the last two chapters of his Essay on Population, to provide theological justification for his theories.]

In the final two chapters of his first Essay on Population, T. R. Malthus tried to reconcile the chilling implications of his population theory with the goodness and benevolence of God. This theodicy further antagonized the critics of the Essay, who found it sanctimonious and hypocritical; and it tagged the author with the acrimonious title...

(The entire section is 3794 words.)

Geoffrey Gilbert (essay date spring 1980)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gilbert, Geoffrey. “Economic Growth and the Poor in Malthus' Essay on Population.History of Political Economy 12, no. 1 (spring 1980): 83-96.

[In the following essay, Gilbert explains Malthus's changing views on the effects of economic growth on the working poor in the 1798 and succeeding editions of the Essay on Population.]


Historians of economic thought have given short shrift to Malthus' treatment of economic growth as it affects the welfare of the working classes, although the issue commands a full chapter in every edition of the Essay on Population. The gist of the argument, as formulated in 1798, is that...

(The entire section is 5336 words.)

Arthur E. Walzer (essay date February 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Walzer, Arthur E. “Logic and Rhetoric in Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 73, no. 1 (February 1987): 1-17.

[In the following essay, Walzer analyzes Malthus's Essay in terms of its rhetorical strategies.]

In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published anonymously An Essay on the Principle of Population, As It Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers.1 In his famous Essay, Malthus argues against the possibility of the utopian future predicted by such Enlightenment reformers as William Godwin and...

(The entire section is 10400 words.)

Samuel Hollander (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hollander, Samuel. “Utilitarianism in a Theological Context.” In The Economics of Thomas Robert Malthus, pp. 917-48. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, Hollander explores Malthus's version of theological utilitarianism, claiming that his roles as Christian moralist and political economist were not incompatible.]


Whether Malthus was a ‘Utilitarian’ is still a debated issue. D. P. O'Brien, for example, maintains that ‘only the two Mills, part from Bentham himself, were really Utilitarians' (1975, 25). Against this we have the view of Lord Robbins: ‘The principle that the test...

(The entire section is 17094 words.)

Eric B. Ross (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ross, Eric B. “Politics and Paradigms: The Origins of Malthusian Theory.” In The Malthus Factor: Population, Poverty and Politics in Capitalist Development, pp. 8-30. London: Zed Books, 1998.

[In the following essay, Ross discusses the historical, political, and economic factors behind Malthus's theory of population which, Ross claims, provide justification for the system of private property as it existed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.]

It is clearly the duty of each individual not to marry till he has a prospect of supporting his children; but it is at the same time to be wished that he should retain undiminished...

(The entire section is 10708 words.)

Tim Fulford (essay date fall 2001)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fulford, Tim. “Apocalyptic Economics and Prophetic Politics: Radical and Romantic Responses to Malthus and Burke.” Studies in Romanticism 40, no. 3 (fall 2001): 345-68.

[In the following essay, Fulford explains the influence Malthus's writings exerted on the history of literature as well as on the history of politics and social science.]

We will do some Michief if you don't lower the Brade for we cannot live. … We have give you a fair offer to do it before you don have your Town & Towns set on fire … we will begin on the One End and Continue to the other. Be all of one Mind we can do itt because we cannot But be killed then &...

(The entire section is 9875 words.)