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Soc. Sci. 2017, 6(1), 4; doi:10.3390/socsci6010004

Malthus and the Philanthropists, 1764–1859: The Cultural Circulation of Political Economy, Botany, and Natural Knowledge

Department of History, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3, Canada
Academic Editor: Bryan L. Sykes
Received: 16 July 2016 / Revised: 1 December 2016 / Accepted: 3 January 2017 / Published: 10 January 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [330 KB, uploaded 6 February 2017]

Abstract

Modernity does not possess a monopoly on mass incarceration, population fears, forced migration, famine, or climatic change. Indeed, contemporary and early modern concerns over these matters have extended interests in Thomas Malthus. Yet, despite extensive research on population issues, little work explicates the genesis of population knowledge production or how the process of intellectual transfer occurred during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This paper examines the Delessert network’s instrumental role in cultivating, curating, and circulating knowledge that popularized Malthusian population theory, including the theory’s constitutive elements of political economy, philanthropy, industry, agriculture, and botany. I show how deviant, nonconformist groups suffered forced migration for their political philosophy, particularly during the revolutionary 1790s, resulting in their imprisonment and migration to America. A consequence of these social shifts was the diffusion and dissemination of population theory—as a pursuit of scientific knowledge and exploration—across both sides of the Atlantic. By focusing on the Delesserts and their social network, I find that a byproduct of inter and intra continental migration among European elites was a knowledge exchange that stimulated Malthus’s thesis on population and Genevan Augustin Pyramus Candolle’s research on botany, ultimately culminating in Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and human evolution. View Full-Text
Keywords: knowledge circulation; nature; political economy; philanthropy; population; botany; translation; network knowledge circulation; nature; political economy; philanthropy; population; botany; translation; network
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MacDonald, J.M. Malthus and the Philanthropists, 1764–1859: The Cultural Circulation of Political Economy, Botany, and Natural Knowledge. Soc. Sci. 2017, 6, 4.

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