Malthus and the peopling of America and Australia - an Insights lecture

18 August 2011

In her Insights lecture on Thursday 18 August the University of Sydney's Professor Alison Bashford will discuss the little known fact that the new colony of New South Wales formed a founding case on which Robert Malthus, Britain's original political economist, built his late 18th-century ideas on population.

Food security is back on the global public agenda, and so, therefore, is Robert Malthus, the famous author of An Essay on the Principle of Population. His views on demography and their implication for economic and social policy made him a controversial figure, who to this day is either loved or loathed.

What is not widely known about Malthus is what he thought about Australia. Indeed few have registered that he considered Australia at all, according to Professor Bashford, from the University's Department of History.

After studying Australia Malthus turned his attention to the new United States of America; the thirteen colonies-turned-republic, located on the edge of another vast continent.

"Just what did Malthus think about these very different New Worlds, their original inhabitants, the Aborigines and Native Americans, and the prospects for newcomers?" Professor Bashford asks.

"This lecture brings recent scholarship on colonial history to Malthus's famous essay and in the process asks how the population and ecological histories of Australia and America might be rethought. It may also challenge views of Malthus which connect him with the endorsement of genocide."

During 2009-10 Alison Bashford was Visiting Professor of Australian Studies, Harvard University, in the History of Science Department, and this is also her returning Harvard Lecture.

Professor Bashford's books have explored the history of science and medicine in Britain and Australia, most recently The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (2010 with Philippa Levine) which will soon be awarded the Cantemir Prize 2011 at the University of Oxford and Geopolitics and the World Population Problem (forthcoming). She is currently co-editing with Stuart Macintyre the two-volume new Cambridge History of Australia. In 2011 she was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship for the project Climate Change and the History of Environmental Determinism.

The Insights lectures introduce the newest Professors from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and showcase them talking about the central questions of their work and its importance.

Event details:

What: Insights 2011: Inaugural Lecture Series - Malthus and the New World: Peopling America and Australia

Time: Thursday, 18 August 6pm - refreshments will be served from 5.30pm.

Location: Nicholson Museum, the University of Sydney

Cost: Free

RSVP required: or (02) 9351 7454

Contact: Kate Macfarlane

Phone: 02 9351 7454

Email: 593c5b3a5a3b450c2f20471d31250416260433160b1b0e2b2a2937773629416a2d38