The object of this lecture is to trace the history of thought relating to the connection between population growth and economic development. This is not a matter which appears very frequently in the modern discussions of the theory of development although I should hope that we are by now all aware of the truly frightening prospects looming ahead which are due to this factor. But it figures large in earlier thought on our subject. In the classical outlook, to discuss development without considering the tendencies of population growth would have been to omit the most essential ingredient; and in this respect I am inclined to think that, with all its obvious imperfection, classical thought was of considerably more practical significance than most of the theoretical models of our own day. I make no apology therefore for putting this subject first in my series of more detailed surveys.


Political Economy Subsistence Level Classical Outlook Deliberate Control Classical Thought 
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  1. 1.
    Sir William Temple, ‘An Essay upon the Advancement of Trade in Ireland’ in Works (1814) vol. iii, pp. 2–3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sir William Petty, A Treatise on Taxes, reprinted in The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, ed. Hull (1899) vol. i, p. 34.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la Nature du Commerce, ed. Higgs (1931 edition) pp. 83 and 85. All future references are to this edition.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    Sir James Denham Steuart, An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy (1767) p. 20.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    In the appendix printed in Malthus, Additions to the Fourth and Former Editions (1817) pp. 292–3.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    Appendix to N. W. Senior, Two Lectures on Population (1831) pp. 82–83.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Bentham, Works, ed. Bowring (1843) vol. viii, pp. 367–8.Google Scholar
  8. 1.
    James Mill, The Article Colony, reprinted separately (1828) pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  9. 2.
    Francis Place, Illustrations of the Principle of Population (1822) pp. 165, 173–4.Google Scholar
  10. See also J. A. Field, ‘The Malthusian Controversy’ and ‘The Early Propagandist Movement in English Population Theory’ in Essays on Population (Chicago, 1931 ).Google Scholar
  11. 2.
    Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, 8th ed. (1920) p. 179 fn. All further references are to this edition.Google Scholar
  12. 1.
    To imagine that the Essay on the Principle of Population was ever based on the law of diminishing returns is to confuse Malthusianism as expounded by J. S. Mill with Malthusianism as expounded by Malthus.’ Edwin Cannan, Theories of Production and Distribution, 3rd ed. (1922) P. 544.Google Scholar
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    See especially Malthus, On the Nature and Process of Rent (1815) PP. 38–9.Google Scholar
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    Reprinted in D. V. Glass, Introduction to Malthus (1953) p. 122.Google Scholar
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    Sir Edward West, Essay on the Application of Capital to Land(1815) PP. 6–7.Google Scholar
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    See E. G. Wakefield’s Letters from Sydney (1829) and the Art of Colonization (1849) passim.Google Scholar
  18. I have given some account of Wakefield’s views and their influence in Robbins, Robert Torrens and the Evolution of Classical Economics (1958) pp. 153–181.Google Scholar
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    Henry Sidgwick, Principles of Political Economy, 3rd ed. (1901) pp. 150–1.Google Scholar
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    Cannan’s first formulation is to be found in his Elementary Political Economy (1888) pp. 21–5.Google Scholar
  21. It was subsequently elaborated in successive editions of his Wealth: A Brief Explanation of the Causes of Economic Welfare. K. Wicksell’s thoughts on the subjects are to be found in the German edition of his lectures, Vorlesungen über Nationalökonomie (1913), book 1, p. 50.Google Scholar
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© Lord Robbins 1968

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