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MALTHUS AND CHINA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2019

ALISON BASHFORD*
Affiliation:
University of New South Wales
*
School of Humanities and Languages, University of New South Wales, Morven Brown Building, 243, Sydney, NSW 2052a.bashford@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

T. R. Malthus was deeply interested in how his principle of population operated in societies distant to, and different from, his own. In this respect, China served as an intriguing case, already famous in his own time for its large and dense population and the central regulation of a closed economy. Malthus drew on both centuries-old Jesuit material and recent accounts from the Macartney embassy to the Qianlong emperor to assess its past and present food–land–population dynamics. This article explores Malthus's interest in China in the context of British public and private commercial interest in opening its trade, not least interest from his own East India Company. Historiographically, Malthus's China has been critiqued as an early rendition of orientalist demographic transition, posing a dichotomy of East/West fertility and mortality change. In disagreement with this interpretation, this article argues Malthus's key distinction was not East/West but Old World/New World.

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Article
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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Footnotes

My thanks to Helen Dunstan and Henrietta Harrison for advice and assistance with this article, and to the Master and Fellows of Jesus College, Cambridge, for access to the Old Library Malthus Family Collection.

References

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29 Staunton, Account, iii, p. 467. See also Malthus, Essay (1803). ‘Chow-ta-Zhin, a man of business and precision, cautious in advancing facts, and proceeding generally upon official documents, delivered, at the request of the Embassador, a statement to him, taken from one of the public offices in the capital, and printed in the Appendix to this work, of the inhabitants of the fifteen ancient provinces of China’ (p. 146). For Qiao Renjie, see Mosca, Matthew W., From frontier policy to foreign policy: the question of India and the transformation of geopolitics in Qing China (Stanford, CA, 2013), pp. 149–54Google Scholar; Hevia, Cherishing men from afar, p. 90. Thanks to Henrietta Harrison for discussion on ‘Chow-ta-zhin’.

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34 Ibid., p. lxvii.

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44 Slaves are to be counted within the household, Malthus stated. Malthus here was extending David Hume's commentary on slaves, their reproduction, and methods for counting households, an engagement with Hume most fully undertaken in his chapter on Africa. For Malthus, slavery, and Africa, see Bashford and Chaplin, New worlds, pp. 178–80.

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52 Staunton, Account. Reprinted in Malthus.

53 Staunton, Account, iii, p. 389.

54 Malthus, Essay (1798), ch. 10.

55 Malthus, Essay (1803), p. 149.

56 Ibid., p. 148.

57 Ibid., p. 49.

58 Staunton, Account, iii, pp. 386–7. In drawing from accounts such as that of Staunton, Malthus was normally meticulous in his citations. But in this chapter, almost an entire page of Staunton was reprinted verbatim, and although containing a footnote, was unusually not in quotation marks.

59 Smith, Wealth of nations, ed. Cannan, book 1, ch. 11, ‘Of the rent of land’, p. 170. Staunton also referred to this passage from Smith in his Account, iii, p. 361.

60 Malthus, Essay (1803), pp. 151, 153.

61 Lavely and Wong, ‘Revising the Malthusian narrative’, p. 714.

62 Montesquieu, Complete works, ‘The spirit of laws’, ii, p. 128. See Pereira, Jacques, Montesquieu et la Chine (Paris, 2008)Google Scholar.

63 ‘The early marriages of men in easy circumstances have been already mentioned; with the poor, marriage is a measure of prudence, because the children, particularly the sons, are bound to maintain their parents. Whatever is strongly recommended, and generally practised, is at length considered as a kind of religious duty; and this union, as such, takes place whenever, there is the least prospect of subsistence for a future family. That prospect, however, is not always realized; and children … are sometimes abandoned by the wretched authors of their being.’ Staunton, Account, ii, pp. 334–5.

64 Malthus, Essay (1803), p. 150.

65 Ibid., p. 154.

66 Ibid., p. 151.

67 Smith, Wealth of nations, ed. Cannan, book 1, ch. 8, ‘On the wages of labour’, p. 82.

68 Lee and Feng, One quarter of humanity.

69 Malthus, Essay (1803).

70 Lavely and Wong, ‘Revising the Malthusian narrative’, p. 735.

71 Lee and Feng, One quarter of humanity, p. 7.

72 Staunton, Account, ii, p. 337.

73 Smith, Wealth of nations, ed. Cannan, book 1, ch. 8, ‘On the wages of labour’, p. 83.

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75 Lavely and Wong, ‘Revising the Malthusian narrative’, p. 735.

76 See Bashford and Chaplin, New worlds, pp. 147, 158.

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95 Ibid., book 4, ch. 7, ‘Of colonies’, pp. 616–17.

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