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The Human Tide

How Popn Shaped The Modern World

Paul Morland

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Consider feminism. Imposs to say whether the feminist movement prefigured demographic change (women get education and having fewer babies) and drove it, or rather resulted from it, but we can chart how the two worked together. Fem ideas have permeated society, from the acceptibility of premarital sex to females in workplace. But the revn in social attitudes to sex and gender may not have taken place without the invention of the Pill and the fertility choices this allowed. But then again, the Pill was due to changes in social attitudes that made research acceptable and fundable.

Three British queens epitomise change between C18 and C20. Q Anne, d 1714, aged 49, had 18 pregnancies, but not one child survived her. Q Victoria had 9 children 1840-1857, who all survived to adulthood. Q Mother, 1930's, produced only 2 children, Elizabeth and Margaret. Two trends - lower child mortality and dramatic cut in number of children each woman bore.

Numbers count. Even though most Chinese are very poor, China is a meaningful power in the world economy both as a buyer and a seller. And allows it to access the resources requiredto be a major military power.

When Henry VIII died 1547, Eng popn about 3 million. When daughter Eliz l died in 1603, it had risen to 4 million. Tudor Eng largely peaceful and prosperous, and popn still recovering from Black Death, so there was plenty of land to farm. But then reverted to norm in C17 and C18 - less than half a percent growth.

But in early C19, everything changed. Pop grew at 1.33%, despite large-scale emigration. When it reaches that rate, popn doubles every 50 years, and that's what happened in C19. Doubled, and then doubled again.

Malthus's advice that popn would always eventually outstrip resources arrived just as Industrial and Agricultural Revns got under way. In particular, new methods of farming radically increased yields, and transport inventions meant cities were no longer constrained by having to source all their food locally.

Ireland potato famine 1845, British still locked in althusian thinking and refused to help the peasants bc believed that wd just lead to more of them surviving and eating up all the resources. Pre famine, most Irish migration had come from Protestant Ulster, and they all went to Appalachians where became the 'Scottish Irish'. But the post famine wave of at least a million Cath Irish transformed the seaboard American cities.

Spain conquered much of Central and South America, but they cd not grasp it, bc not enough Spanish people emigrated. In contrast, Canada, Australia and NZ became solidly English bc Britain was producing a popn surplus willing to take a chance on a better life in the colonies.

Post 1945 sudden change in birth rates. Pre-war fertility of two suddenly jumped to 3.5 by 1960. Not just a bubble of GI's returning from WW2,it peaked 15t years later. Virtuous cycle of more marriages, more families, more demand for homes, cars and consumer goods contributing to prosperity, in turn giving people the optimism to get married, have families, and buy stuff. (And at that stage, only way to have sex was to get married).

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