Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth

Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth

Hardback Columbia Studies in International and Global History

By (author) Alison Bashford

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  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 231mm x 38mm | 839g
  • Publication date: 7 March 2014
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 023114766X
  • ISBN 13: 9780231147668
  • Illustrations note: 16 black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 354,395

Product description

Concern about the size of the world's population did not begin with the "population bomb" in 1968. It arose in the aftermath of World War I and was understood as an issue with far-reaching ecological, agricultural, economic, and geopolitical consequences. The world population problem concerned the fertility of soil as much as the fertility of women, always involving both "earth" and "life." Global Population traces the idea of a world population problem as it evolved from the 1920s through the 1960s. The growth and distribution of the human population over the planet's surface came deeply to shape the characterization of "civilizations" with different standards of living. It forged the very ideas of development, demographically defined three worlds, and, for some, an aspirational "one world." Drawing on international conference transcripts and personal and organizational archives, this book reconstructs the twentieth-century population problem in terms of migration, colonial expansion, globalization, and world food plans. Population was a problem in which international relations and intimate relations were one. Global Population ultimately shows how a geopolitical problem about sovereignty over land morphed into a biopolitical solution, entailing sovereignty over one's person.

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Author information

Alison Bashford is a historian whose many books connect imperial and world history with medical and environmental histories. She is the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, University of Cambridge, and has taught at Harvard University, the Australian National University, and, for many years, at the University of Sydney. In 2011, she won the Cantemir Prize with Philippa Levine for The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics.

Review quote

With this engaging, wide-ranging, and impressively researched book, which tracks the global history of the 'world population problem'--including fascinating forays into debates on eugenics, birth control, colonization, soil, food, agriculture, and the carrying capacity of the earth--Bashford joins a very select group of historians who have recently taken the familiar narratives of world history in an entirely new direction: toward the historical origins of modern 'planetary consciousness.' A timely and brilliant piece of work. -- Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago The earth, and population, and death--for much of the twentieth century, those were the facts when it came to brass tacks, as Alison Bashford convincingly shows in this wide-ranging, ground-breaking study. Global Population brings together geopolitics and eugenics, feminism and Malthusianism, ecology and economics in surprising and often counterintuitive combinations. The result is a major contribution to global intellectual history. -- David Armitage, Harvard University This is the most fascinating and informative history on global population that this reviewer has ever read. Bashford's very impressive work will be of most interest to advance graduate students and faculty... Highly recommended. CHOICE One of the most wide-ranging works of intellectual history I've read in a long time... this is an encyclopedia of German Romanticism and an unparalleled insight into lieder's greatest exponent. Times Higher Education This book is an original intellectual history of eugenic thought... This work commands respect for its sweep and its range, identifying authoritarian elements in ecology and even some libertarian tendencies in eugenics. Here is the best history we have of the emergence of demographic transition theory... American Historical Review

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: Life and EarthPart I. The Long Nineteenth Century1. Confined in Room: A Spatial History of Malthusianism Part II. The Politics of Earth, 1920s and 1930s2. War and Peace: Population, Territory, and Living Space3. Density: Universes with Definite Limits4. Migration: World Population and the Global Color Line5. Waste Lands: Sovereignty and the Anticolonial History of World PopulationPart III. The Politics of Life, 1920s and 1930s6. Life on Earth: Ecology and the Cosmopolitics of Population7. Soil and Food: Agriculture and the Fertility of the Earth8. Sex: The Geopolitics of Birth Control 9. The Species: Human Difference and Global EugenicsPart IV. Between One World and Three Worlds, 1940s to 196810. Food and Freedom: A New World of Plenty?11. Life and Death: The Biopolitical Solution to a Geopolitical Problem12. Universal Rights? Population Control and the Powers of Reproductive FreedomConclusion: The Population Bomb in the Space AgeNotesArchival CollectionsIndex