Academic journal article History of Economics Review

An Index to Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798

Academic journal article History of Economics Review

An Index to Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798

Article excerpt

Abstract: The first edition (1798) of T. R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, appears never to have received adequate indexation, either by Malthus himself or in re-publications. The index presented here attempts to rectify this omission, and in doing so to draw attention to aspects of the 1798 Essay that are sometimes overlooked in the secondary literature, or have not always received the attention they deserve. Fourteen topics have been selected from the index for comment, as a contribution to a more detailed analysis of the 1798 Essay, and in response to Malthus's complaint that many who express a horror of it have never read it. The fourteen selected topics are: the distribution of property; social classes; combinations amongst the rich and the poor; prudential and moral restraint; institutionalist or individualist; the doctrine of proportions; the role of manufactures; the theology of the Essay of 1798; an evolutionary theology; Malthus's world-view; sex, love and marriage; women; causation and causes; and metaphors.

1 Introduction

The first edition (1798) of T.R. Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population did not contain an index, and its facsimile reprints of 1926 and 1966 were not supplemented by an editorial index. Other English-language reprints also lack adequate indexation. The 1959 paperback reprint (with a foreword by Kenneth Boulding) does not have an index. Antony Flew's reprint of the first edition in 1970 provided an index but only of personal names. The index in Philip Appleman's reprint of 1976 provided a few entries for each of the nineteen chapters, but was in effect a brief summary rather than an index. The variorum edition of the Essay by Patricia James in 1989 traces the differences between the second (1803), third (1806), fourth (1807), fifth (1817) and sixth (1826) editions, and therefore its index does not include an index to the first edition of 1798. The Works of Thomas Robert Malthus, edited by E.A. Wrigley and David Souden, includes all six editions, and its index therefore incorporates entries from the first edition of 1798, but the 1798 edition is less extensively indexed than it might have been if separately indexed.

This attached index (1) to the Essay of 1798 has been prepared in the belief that indexes can assist the study of major texts by identifying themes and by collating for any particular theme comments dispersed throughout the text that might otherwise escape notice.

The index presented here does not pretend to be the one, perfect index. It does not escape from the essential subjectivity and relativity of all indexes, in so far as it reflects the personal, and perhaps idiosyncratic, interests and prejudices of the indexer. Although somewhat more detailed than previous indexes of the 1798 Essay, it does not pretend to be a complete index or a concordance.

However, its publication will be justified if it draws attention to aspects of Malthus's thought that have often been overlooked in the secondary literature or have not received the attention they deserve.

For the present compiler, the themes listed below have emerged from the index as features of particular interest, and of particular relevance to an understanding of Malthus's thought in 1798. Some, if not all, of the following features of Malthus's thought will be familiar to long-term Malthus scholars from their acquaintance with the primary sources and secondary literature. The inclusion of these features in this article might therefore appear superfluous to them inasmuch as it serves merely to confirm what they already know, without contributing anything new or novel to their understanding of Malthus; but the fact that these features can be found in the 1798 Essay might not be so well known to a wider audience.

2 The Distribution of Property

The view, fostered by authors such as William Cobbett, William Hazlitt and Karl Marx, that Malthus was a spokesperson or sycophant of the landlords frequently reappears in secondary literature. …

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