The essays collected in this book explore a new and important field of study – the interrelationship between population growth and decline and changes in technology, culture, and social organization. They were generated by a discussion of Ester Boserup's anti-Malthusian theory that the increased pressures of population on resources triggered evolutionary changes in technology, culture, and social organization of historical agricultural societies. Each author has reacted to the “Boserup Model” in terms of both his own sets of data and his personal theoretical inclinations; yet a common theme emerges – that changes in population pressure are a “sometimes gentle, sometimes compelling [but] ever-present force” in history and society.
Chapters are arranged according to the types of data they present. The first half of the book deals with agriculture as a subsistence base, while the second half treats broader problems of cultural change or intensification in the context of technological diversity. The book itself is based on a conference, “Population, Resources, and Technology,” which was organized by anthropology professor Brian Spooner and held at the University of Pennsylvania in 1970.