846. Harrod to F. A. Lindemann , 3 October 1938 [a]

6 Beaumont Street, Oxford #

3 October 1938

My dear Prof.

I am making a speech to a statistical society on the population in Liverpool to-morrow. I believe that the Press is to be there. [1] I thought of devoting the first 10 minutes to politics and going all out. I have written it down and am having it typed. I should like you to see it and I should be glad of your advice on various points. [2]

I am going to London by the 10.10 to-morrow (Tuesday) and shall be back at 5.55. I shall come straight to your rooms having picked the thing up at the typist. If you cant be in then would you leave a message. I leave for Liverpool on Wednesday morning.



  1. 1. Harrod's speech was reported as follows in the Liverpool Daily Post on 6 October ("Our Vanishing Population. Loss Equal to Seven European Wars", p. 6):
    • "If civilisation comes to an end it is more likely to be through the decline of population than through war," said Mr. R. F. Harrod, lecturer in economics at Oxford University, addressing Liverpool Economic and Statistical Society last night.

      Regarding the decline in the birth-rate as a lethal factor (because it reduced the number of people there would otherwise be), and comparing the rate for the past four or five years with the rate during the century before 1870, when the decline begins, it was seen that approximately 1,400,000 fewer people were now being born every year.

      The effect of this decline on the population of England was what would be produced by waging seven wars, each as disastrous as the European wars. [...] it was certainly true that, for a war to be as serious as the birth decline since 1870, it must not only be seven times as serious as the last war, but must go on for ever.

      There was reason to fear that the birth control might be even more lethal factor than war. Reliable calculations showed that the people in England were failing to replace itself by the production of children. The same was to be said of France and Germany, Australia and America. Italy was maintaining its numbers, and Russia was adding to its population. Taking the gross reproduction rate, which assumed that all children survived to the age of fifty, this country, with Germany, France and Italy, was far from replacing losses, even if there were no deaths.

      For every twelve children born in this country, in and before the Victorian period, only four were born now. There was not much scope for further improvement in reducing infant mortality.

      The country must plan against all the causes of decline, and his own main recommendation was family endowment, which must, however, be on a generous scale. He did not despair of the situation if something of that kind were done.

    2. The paper seems to be "Population Trends and Problems" (Harrod 1939:1 ). Although Harrod's article is dated 14 December 1938, its structure reflects Harrod's description, as the introductory passages stress the importance of population statistics for housing, social services and educational policies, and the remainder of the articles discusses methods for the elaboration of statistical description of population trends and provides a comparison between the figures of different countries at different times. Of the topics summarized in the press (see note 1 to this letter), only the comparison with the "seven wars" (likely to be greatly exaggerated in importance in a press report) is missing from the essay.

    1. a. ALS, two pages on one leaf, in CHER K142/22.

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