An Essay on the Principle of Population | Study Guide

Thomas Robert Malthus

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An Essay on the Principle of Population | Chapter Summaries


Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Preface Malthus begins his Essay by claiming to have been inspired by William Godwin's "Of Avarice and Profusion." Discussing Go... Read More
Chapter 1 Malthus now poses the central question of his Essay: will humankind be able to improve itself indefinitely, or is it doo... Read More
Chapter 2 Malthus now attempts to provide some justification for his principle of population. In every country known to history, h... Read More
Chapter 3 Malthus next considers how population and subsistence interact in "the rudest state of mankind"—that of hunter-gatherers... Read More
Chapter 4 In "civilized nations," Malthus says, farmland exists in a state of "mixed pasture and tillage." In other words, some of... Read More
Chapter 5 Malthus now describes the "second, or positive check" on population growth: an increase in the death rate, brought about... Read More
Chapter 6 Malthus now considers the situation of newly founded colonies, which experience vast population growth thanks to access ... Read More
Chapter 7 Returning to his discussion of positive checks (see Chapter 4), Malthus considers the causes of epidemics. He says a "cr... Read More
Chapter 8 Malthus now weighs the opinions of Robert Wallace and Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet, two 1... Read More
Chapter 9 Malthus continues his exploration of Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat's ideas. He takes issue with what de Caritat ... Read More
Chapter 10 Malthus begins by praising Godwin's "ingenious and able work on political justice," complimenting both its style and its... Read More
Chapter 11 Malthus continues his critique of Godwin's proposed "system of society." Such a system, he argues, is not only unstable ... Read More
Chapter 12 Next, Malthus turns his attention to Godwin's views on the "prolongation of human life." Godwin's belief in the potentia... Read More
Chapter 13 Malthus's critique of Godwin continues. He now charges Godwin with "considering man too much in the light of a being mer... Read More
Chapter 14 This chapter continues Malthus's lengthy criticism of Godwin. He opens by quoting Godwin's "five propositions" concernin... Read More
Chapter 15 Malthus now considers the evolution of Godwin's beliefs in the years between the publication of Political Justice (1793)... Read More
Chapter 16 Malthus now considers a problem with the definition of wealth posed by Adam Smith. In Smith's definition, wealth has lit... Read More
Chapter 17 This chapter concludes Malthus's defense of the principle of population as a basic fact of human life. Continuing his di... Read More
Chapter 18 Malthus now speculates as to why people live in a world where misery seems inevitable. The "constant pressure of distres... Read More
Chapter 19 Continuing his discussion from Chapter 18, Malthus proposes another benefit to "the sorrows and distresses of life." Mis... Read More
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