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The Modern Rise of Population

McKeown, Thomas

Original publication date: 1976

Original publisher: London: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.

Publication status: Out of print

Ten thousand years ago there were less than 10 million people in the world. By 1750 there were 750 million and, from that time to the present, the growth has continued at a rapid and ever increasing rate. World population reached 1 billion in 1830, 2 billion a century later, and today exceeds 7 billion. This book considers the causes of the increase.

McKeown challenges many common assumptions about health and longevity. He asserts that the health of man “is only marginally influenced by medical care,”  that “the decline in mortality was due essentially to a reduction in deaths due to infectious diseases prior to 1900.” “The fall in mortality was not influenced substantially by immunization or therapy before 1935.” “A substantial reduction of mortality  . . . followed the introduction . . . of purification of water, efficient sewage disposal and improvements in food hygiene.” Another reason for such large population growth was “an improvement in nutrition due to greater food supplies.”

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