European Review of Economic History

Research Article

In defense of the Malthusian interpretation of history


a1 University of California, Davis,

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).