Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.
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Chapter 17: Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834)

Catherine Martin


As Schumpeter noted, since the publication of the Essay on Population, Malthus has been “the subject of equally unreasonable, contradictory appraisals. He was a benefactor of humanity. He was a fiend. He was a profound thinker. He was a dunce. . . . Marx poured on him his vitriolic wrath. Keynes glorified him” (1954: 480–81). Setting the Stage Thomas Robert Malthus was born on 13 February 1766 at The Rookery, near Dorking in Surrey and died in Bath on 29 December 1834. His father, Daniel Malthus, was a friend of David Hume and a great admirer of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his philosophical novel Émile. Three weeks after Robert’s birth these two philosophers came to visit him. Robert was educated first by his father and then, until he was 16, by Richard Graves, a clergyman friend of his father. In 1782, he went to the famous Dissenting Academy at Warrington, Lancashire, to be taught by a “heretical” clergyman, Gilbert Wakefield, a disciple of Rousseau. Malthus went to Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1784, where he studied mathematics, science and classics. In 1788, he graduated as Ninth Wrangler, and took orders. After he had left Cambridge, one of his tutors, William Frend, was removed from his fellowship because of his advocacy of Unitarianism and his opposition to the war with the French Republic. In 1793, Malthus was elected to a fellowship by his college, and took a curacy at Okewood, near his family’s home. In 1803, he was instituted rector of Walesby, Lincolnshire, and held...

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