The educational ideas and influence of Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834)
In this study, the depth of Malthus's involvement in education will be seen. During his years at Haileybury College, Malthus proved himself to be a caring and conscientious teacher who, as will be demonstrated in Chapter III, was remembered with affection in later life by many of his pupils; he was a loyal member of staff who defended the college against critical reports in the press; he was concerned about the welfare of the boys in his charge, as well as an appropriate curriculum for them and fair methods of assessing their progress. A detailed examination of biographies, letters and published articles will provide ample evidence to prove these claims about Malthus. The criticism has sometimes been made that Malthus wished to condemn the poor to a life made even more difficult by the withdrawal of the assistance offered by the Poor Laws, but the analysis of his theories which appears in Chapters V and VI of this study will demonstrate that this was not Malthus's intention. Far from wanting the poor to suffer increased privation, Malthus hoped that his proposals would offer them the chance to improve their situation and influence their own destiny. A critical study of his own words will show the importance of education in his vision of a better future. An education populace would understand the reasons behind food shortage and would appreciate the necessity of delaying marriage, thereby slowing down the increase in population. Education would encourage the lower classes to strive for self-improvement; it would show them how to be careful and plan for the future; it would `have a considerable effect in the prevention of crimes and the promotion of industry, morality and regular conduct'(2); it would even bring about a more peaceful and stable society as an educated populace would understand the truth about their situation and would not be persuaded by the `false declamation of interested and ambitious demagogues'(3). It is certainly true that Malthus recommended the abolition of the existing Poor Laws, but this does not mean that he wished to condemn the poor to increased suffering. On the contrary, an examination of the historical background of the system of poor relief at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century will help us to understand Malthus's attitude to the Poor Laws, and a detailed analysis of his own proposals in Chapter VI of this study will explain how his ideas about Poor Law reform were linked to his theories about social and economic reform. Finally, Chapters VIII, IX and X of this study will contain an examination of the extent of the influence exerted on public opinion by Malthus and his theories.