PLACE, Francis.

Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population:

including an examination of the proposed remedies of Mr. Malthus, and a reply to the objections of Mr. Godwin and others.

London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1822 Stock Code: 128716
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The foundation work of the modern birth-control movement

First edition of the foundation work of the modern birth-control movement, of great significance in economics, social history, and population theory. The only full-length book of the autodidact radical author Francis Place (1771-1854), the son of a violent London innkeeper who overcame many hardships to become a successful tailor, Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population was a response to the 1820 reply to Malthus made by Place's former friend and mentor, William Godwin. On the one hand, Place criticised Malthus for his ignorance of the conditions in which the poor lived; on the other, Godwin for giving up all hope for their improvement. Malthus had realised that one check to the population growth that so alarmed him might be birth control, but dismissed the practicalities of this as "vice", arguing that artificial methods of contraception were unnatural and would lead to immorality. In the second edition of his Essay, the Great Quarto of 1803, Malthus had proposed "moral restraint" in its place. Place knew from first-hand experience that this was clergyman's cant: Malthus was naïve in supposing that working men would be persuaded to practice sexual continence and delayed marriage. "Though many preceded Francis Place in discussing the technique of contraception, he seems to have been the first to venture, at first alone and unaided, upon an organized attempt to educate the masses. Place holds, therefore, the same position in social education on contraception that Malthus holds in the history of general population theory it was Place who first gave birth control a body of social theory" (Himes, Medical History of Contraception, pp. 212-13). Place was not without influence and connections among political economists: in 1808 he had met and befriended Jeremy Bentham and through him encountered James Mill, who in turn introduced him to the economist David Ricardo. But his frank advocacy for birth control lost him many friends and his book was not a success. Somewhat ironically, his frankness about the practical consequences of Malthus's theory found an echo in the familiar euphemism for contraceptives throughout the nineteenth century as "Malthusian devices".

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Octavo (213 x 133 mm). Recent green half cloth, red morocco label, marbled sides.


Title page and final page with very minor paper fault at head and slight residue from former endpaper, some finger-soiling. A very good copy.


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