The Fear of Population Decline by Michael S. Teitelbaum

By Michael S. Teitelbaum

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Here was a crucial element in the British discussion of the connections linking fertility, mortality, and military power, expressed frequently in doubts as to the vitality of the imperial race. 32 STRATEGIC DEMOGRAPHY, 1 8 7 0 - 1 9 1 4 The assertion that the British army provided a home only for the outcasts of British society was never seriously challenged in these inquiries. But one fundamental problem appeared that undercut attempts to use military recruitment statistics as a guide to the physical state of even one stratum within the working class, let alone that of the nation as a whole.

We saw all too often, during the occupation, old men leaning wearily towards the servile solution, at the time that the young were taking part in the national impulse towards independence and liberty. This crucial effect of our senility, is it not a grave warning? (p. 58) For France, "depopulation carried with it, fatally, a general legacy of decadence" made infinitely worse by the fact that "the terrible ravages of the 1914-18 war among the best of our men were not repaired". This lowered the "quality of leadership" in the interwar years (Debré and Sauvy, 1946, p.

But since the vast majority of men who died in uniform were working-class, it is clear that the literary reverie for the young poets, philosophers, and politicians who fell in Flanders fields really arose out of fears of the decline of ability in European society. According to some, war losses helped complete the work that birth control had already begun, that is, to strip the European world of talent and thereby to place another nail in the coffin of European supremacy and that of its privileged classes (Winter, 1976, pp.

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