Self-promotion/free advice alert: new book on Malthus

Malthus coverBuy this book! Well, buy it if you have US$100/£65/C$115 that’s not destined for more pressing uses, like rent or food. Otherwise, look for it in a generously endowed academic library near you. It’s full of new and interesting thoughts on Malthus, Malthusianism, population, geography, and more. And some of those thoughts are mine!

This announcement gives me occasion to offer some free advice, too. When I was invited to contribute to the volume, more than two years ago now, I was in the middle of a book manuscript, and working quickly to finish. One often hears that when one is in the middle of a book manuscript (or dissertation or similar), such invitations are dangerous distractions that will delay one’s progress and force one to spend time on research unrelated to what one should be doing, i.e. completing the book manuscript. Instead, one has to drop that to chase some only glancingly related questions down a series of unforeseen alleyways.

This is all true. (So, yes, do think twice before setting the dissertation aside.) But in this case, at least, I’m glad that it proved so. As a result of this and a couple of other, similar invitations, I had to rethink how developments in my “home” period of 1660-1760 related to the 150 years previous and the half-century afterward. As a result, I became convinced (a) that my book had to cover about two centuries more than I’d planned, and (b) that I had a bigger argument to make about that now-three-centuries-instead-of-one than I had realized. I’m still working on the book manuscript, a fact that would have horrified me in 2013. But I think it’s going to be a much better book now than it would have been otherwise.

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