Chapter 3: ‘Enlightened Saint Malthus’ or the ‘gloomy Protestant of dismal England’? The reception of Malthus in the French language
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The circumstances and intellectual context in which Malthus’s works circulated in French-speaking countries are highlighted before studying the complex history of the various editions of Malthus’s works in French. The reception of Malthus’s Principles of Political Economy and Definitions in Political Economy, which led to exchanges with Jean-Baptiste Say, is then examined. While these discussions remained confined to specialised literature, the Essay on the Principle of Population provoked lasting controversies over pauperism, morals and the social question: their most salient points are examined. The chapter concludes with the evolution of the discussions towards the end of the period, when Malthus’s name was associated with social Darwinism, neo-Malthusianism and some changing views on population, which shifted the emphasis from its quantity to its quality. An appendix gives examples of how these controversies over the Essay found an echo in works written by the most celebrated novelists of the time.

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