‘The Cost of Living and Dying’: Richard Titmuss, Population, and Population Health, ca.1935-1945
(Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford)
This paper examines Richard Titmuss’s analysis of population and population health in the early part of his career, from 1935 to 1945. In the mid-1930s Titmuss was relatively unknown but the evidence shows that he was already interested in matters of population and population health. Ten years later he was much better known and employed by the Cabinet Office to write the book which is going to make his early reputation, Problems of Social Policy, a work dealing with the British experience of the home front during the war. But one persistent theme throughout this period is his intense interest in population and population health. This is witnessed by articles such as that published in The New Statesman and Nation in 1941 entitled ‘The Cost of Living and Dying’ and his contribution to the newssheet of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, ‘Fewer Children: The Population Problem’.
He had also, of course, published three books by this time: Poverty and Population (1938); Parents Revolt (with Kay Titmuss, 1942); and Birth, Poverty and Wealth (1943). Some of these publications, although by no means all of them, had the official blessing of the Eugenics Society which Titmuss had joined in the late 1930s and in which he had played an important role in the war. He was also by the mid-1940s a leading member of the Population Investigation Committee, set up by the Eugenics Society although independent of it and which later is absorbed by the London School of Economics. So I’ll be drawing on these and other publications and activities in an attempt to show why Titmuss’s views on population were important, if erroneous; and why his analyses of population health were important, and much more intellectually powerful.