Thomas Malthus: biography of this political economy researcher

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was an English demographer and economist known for a theory that bears his name: Malthusianism. He broadly suggests that population growth inevitably leads to a decrease in the food supply, so he proposes reproductive and birth control.

Then we will see a biography of Thomas Malthus, As well as some of his major contributions to economic and demographic thinking.

    Thomas Malthus: biography of an important economist

    Thomas Malthus was born on February 13, 1766 in South London. He was the sixth of seven siblings, all children of Henrietta and Daniel Malthus. It was an important family of intellectuals, who even they were close friends of philosophers such as David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Over time, Malthus developed a close relationship with another great economist of the time, David Ricardo.

    From an early age, Thomas Malthus was able to enter Jesus College, Cambridge. Here he took courses in declamation, Latin and Greek, although his main subject of study was mathematics. By 1791 Malthus had graduated as a specialist in these fields, so he was appointed a fellow of the same school two years later. In 1979 he was ordained and became an Anglican pastor.

    Years later, in 1804, he formed a family with Harriet Eckersall, with whom he had three children, and education was strongly influenced by Rousseau’s liberal ideas on education.

    Like other members of his family, Thomas Malthus had a pale palate that affected his speech as well as a cleft lip. For this reason, he had refused to do a personal portrait, which was typical at the time. It was not until 1833, after undergoing surgery, that it was decided to do so.

    Thomas Robert Malthus died December 29, 1834 in Rookery, Although his remains are found at Bath Abbey in England.

      Academic activity and affiliations

      Malthus worked as a professor of history and political economy at Haileybury School in Hertfordshire. In fact, it was the first time that the term “political economy” had been used in the British academic context to refer to a subject.

      In 1819 Malthus was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1821 he joined the Political Economy Club. The other members of the same society were David Ricardo and James Mill. Almost a decade later, in 1833, Malthus was elected a member of the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, as well as a member of the Royal Academy of Berlin. Finally, in 1834, Malthus was one of the founders of the Statistical Society of London


      In 1798 Malthus published a first edition of the text “An Essay on the Principles of Population and How They Affect the Future of Social Development”. Since its publication, this work has had a wide impact. Malthus firmly held that social development was doomed by accelerated population growth. In turn, population growth it would increase faster and faster if it did not exercise strict control.

      So the problem with Malthus is that this population growth did not go hand in hand with an increase in livelihoods.

      While population growth had a “geometric rhythm”, the means of subsistence increased in a purely “arithmetic” progression. The population would always tend to grow beyond the limits of subsistence, Which would eventually result in poverty, wars, disease and death. For Malthus, one of the remedies would be, for example, self-control and contraception.

      some criticism

      His work is recognized as a pessimistic view, because presented poverty as one of the inevitable phenomena for the human species. His work has also been criticized for having started in abstract and analytical language. In fact, he was accused of failing to carry out rigorous statistical analyzes, as this method of research was developing in Europe and Britain.

      For some critics, although Malthus used empirical evidence in the development of his theory, the theory itself tended to be less concise in these tests, and stronger in the theoretical development itself.

      Either way, Malthusianism it was quickly integrated into major economic theories and represented a major break with excessive economic optimism, while providing a rationale for the theory of wages based on the minimum cost of living and discrediting more traditional forms of charity.

      remarkable works

      Some of Thomas Malthus’ most representative works are An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1933; An investigation into the cause of the present high price of provisions, 1800; and Principles of Political Economy in two volumes of 2008. Works such as Definitions in political economy, 1827 and foreign importation of maize in 1996.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Thomas Robert Malthus (2014). New World Encyclopedia. Accessed October 1, 2018. Available at
      • Thomas Robert Malthus (2018). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed October 1, 2018. Available at

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