Arresting the sword of Damocles: The transition to the post-Malthusian era in Denmark

Peter Sandholt Jensen, Maja Uhre Pedersen, Cristina Victoria Radu, Paul Richard Sharp*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Malthusian model is the subject of a fierce debate within economic history. Although the positive causal relationship postulated from living standards to population growth is relatively uncontroversial for preindustrial societies, this cannot be said for the other key relationship, diminishing returns due to fixed supplies of land. We argue that Denmark, which was characterized by extreme resource and environmental constraints until the final decades of the eighteenth century, provides an ideal setting for testing whether any society was ever truly Malthusian. We employ a cointegrated VAR model on Danish data from 1731 to 1800, finding evidence for diminishing returns until ca. 1775. Yet this relationship disappears in the late-eighteenth century, consistent with an increasing pace of technological progress and the emergence of what Unified Growth Theory has termed the “post-Malthusian” era.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101437
JournalExplorations in Economic History
Issue numberApril
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank conference and seminar participants for helpful comments and suggestions. This work was made possible by a grant from Independent Research Fund Denmark (grant no. DFF - 1327-00069).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Cointegration
  • Denmark
  • Malthusian
  • post-Malthusian


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