European Review of Economic History

Research Article

In defense of the Malthusian interpretation of history

GREGORY CLARKa1

a1 University of California, Davis, gclark@ucdavis.edu

The four reviews make the following major criticisms of the book:

  • (1) A Farewell to Alms assumes one important revolution in economic history, the Industrial Revolution. In reality there were two, with the Neolithic Revolution of equal importance (George Grantham).
  • (2) World income levels did rise between the Stone Age and 1800 (Gunnar Persson, Hans-Joachim Voth).
  • (3) The Malthusian model has been shown to be inapplicable to pre-industrial Europe (Grantham, Persson).
  • (4) The claim of ‘survival of the richest’ is just the revival of discredited and dangerous social Darwinism? (Deirdre McCloskey).
  • (5) There was no Darwinian selection for ‘bourgeois characteristics’ in the pre-industrial world of settled, institutionally stable agrarian societies (McCloskey).
  • (6) The recent growth of India and China, and the experience of immigrants to the USA, easily refute the view that survival of the richest had any impact (McCloskey).
  • (7) The ideas of A Farewell to Alms are not new, merely uncredited borrowings from others (McCloskey, Persson, Voth).