The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS was a British scholar, influential in political economy and demography. Malthus popularised the economic theory of rent.
Malthus has become widely known for his theories about population and its increase or decrease in response to various factors. The six editions of his An Essay on the Principle of Population, published from 1798 to 1826, observed that sooner or later population gets checked by famine and disease. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. William Godwin and the Marquis de Condorcet, for example, believed in the possibility of almost limitless improvement of society. In a more complex way, so did Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose notions centered on the goodness of man and the liberty of citizens bound only by the social contract—a form of popular sovereignty.
Malthus thought that the dangers of population growth would preclude endless progress towards a utopian society: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man". As an Anglican clergyman, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behaviour. Believing that one could not change human nature, Malthus wrote: