The Enigma of Human Fecundity

  • Roger V. Short
Part of the Studies in Biology, Economy and Society book series (SBES)


There has long been a tradition of concern about human population problems in Britain, beginning with Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on the Principles of Popula., first published anonymously in 1798. Malthus was the first to point out that the rate of growth of the population, if left unchecked, was likely to outstrip our food resources. His solutions were ‘preventive checks’, such as moral restraint and the postponement of marriage, and the ‘positive checks’ of misery and vice, including abortion, famine, pestilence and war. Contraception he regarded as one of these vices, something quite unnatural, and akin to ‘promiscuous concubinage ’.

Francis Place was the first to advocate contraception in 1822:

If, above all, it were once clearly understood, that it was not disreputable for married persons to avail themselves of such precautionary means as would, without being injurious to health, or destructive of female delicacy, prevent conception, a sufficient check might at once be given to the increase of population beyond the means of subsistence; vice and misery, to a prodigious extent, might be removed from society.


Birth Interval Intrauterine Device Human Fertility Human Fecundity Depo Provera 
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Copyright information

© The Eugenics Society 1988

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  • Roger V. Short

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