What becomes absolutely critical I think in rethinking Malthus is what he says about this. This process of removing people off land in order to make space for British Europeans is something that troubled him deeply. So he says at various points in a couple of chapters, especially the chapters where he’s talking about North America but not only, that the original inhabitants should not be driven into a corner he says, where they will starve. That this is an exercise, that this is an outcome that cannot be considered for an instant. So Malthus in 1803 was deeply troubled by the process by which land would and people, would be cleared in order to make space for the cultivation of grain. And this is something that he thinks about most directly with respect to North America. Not something that he yet thinks about with respect to the colony of New South Wales because it was not yet in 1803 really, there was no pastoral expansion as yet. It’s quite interesting that Malthus doesn’t imagine the continent of Australia as yet available for pastoral expansion. He understands it for what it was at that point, which was a very local coastal settlement.

So this whole question of what happens to original occupants of various New World lands is something that he’s concerned about with respect to the American instance in particular. And it’s that he has, not that many but three or four times in the early, in these early chapters of the Essay, he’s quite clear that driving natives into a corner which is the way he puts it, is an extremely problematic undertaking and something that he says we should not consider for an instant. And that Malthus has often over the years been understood, often in a very knee jerk way as essentially a conservative, this is not what we expect, the received Malthus to have said.

Alison Bashford on Malthus (ABC Australia)


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