Malthus Across Nations
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Malthus Across Nations

The Reception of Thomas Robert Malthus in Europe, America and Japan

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello, Masashi Izumo and Hiromi Morishita

The writings of Thomas Robert Malthus continue to resonate today, particularly An Essay on the Principle of Population which was published more than two centuries ago. Malthus Across Nations creates a fascinating picture of the circulation of his economic and demographic ideas across different countries, highlighting the reception of his works in a variety of nations and cultures. This unique book offers not only a fascinating piece of comparative analysis in the history of economic thought but also places some of today’s most pressing debates into an accurate historical perspective, thereby improving our understanding of them.
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Chapter 3: ‘Enlightened Saint Malthus’ or the ‘gloomy Protestant of dismal England’? The reception of Malthus in the French language

Gilbert Faccarello


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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