Why Population?

As the planet approaches 8 billion, international debate on population will be ignited again. Population is an urgent and sensitive global concern in a climate-crisis era, from net growth, to ageing, to low fertility.

Population has long been a 360-degree problem. It invites expertise on soil fertility and human fertility; economy and ecology; space, growth and limits; food security, energy and waste. Reproductive politics, health politics, and geopolitics all bear on population policy making. State, familial and individual governance have affected consumption, production and reproduction in the past and into the the climate-changed present.

The Laureate Centre for History & Population approaches the multi-dimensional challenge of population through four linked fields of inquiry. Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Ecopolitics, and Cosmopolitics.


The Laureate Centre for History & Population researches how population policies emerged over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and what their present legacies are, especially in a climate-changed world. We consider the significance of population for modern world history, economic history, environmental history, and the history of ideas, each of which were and are gendered and raced. Our focus is on the Asia Pacific region: the great environmental, demographic, political and economic differences between East Asian, South Asian and Australasian polities. We explore other national, regional and international histories comparatively.

The separations and inter-relations of Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Ecopolitics, and Cosmopolitics drive our enquiries and guide our individual and collective historical work. Our ambition is to place population matters squarely into the multiple modernities of world history.

Bio: human fertility and mortality; birth control and women’s health; food consumption; eugenics; demography and history; raced and gendered physiologies; big, small and experimental pharma; biopolitics and liberal, communist, republican, socialist states; consent, coercion, and persuasion; colonisation and depopulation.

Geo: soil fertility and land-use; world migrations and population density; resources and food security; green revolutions; colonialism, ‘modernisation’ and ‘development’; population, war and peace; historical geography.

Cosmo: international relations and intimate relations; the Great Acceleration and Earth crises; international governance, population, and development economics; population and/in the Anthropocene.

Eco: economy and ecology; environment; growth, limits and waste; atmospheres and biospheres; the fertility of the Earth and ‘improvement’; energy; the history of political economy.

The Laureate Centre also explains ‘Global Malthus.’ How was world population conceptualised in early political economy? How were Malthusian ideas taken up, transformed, or rejected by political leaders and ideas leaders in the multiple modernities of the 19th and 20th centuries?

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