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World Population

Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you, Baker.

My job today is really very simple. I am principally to be timekeeper. I’m to act in the same role as the Speaker of the House of Commons, shout, “Order, Order,” if people go on too long, and if any of you turn out to be too rowdy to make you sit down. I am here to encourage sense and discourage pomposity to keep things moving.

My interest in population is entirely amateur compared to those I shall be introducing later. One cannot be from a small island somewhere north of France and not look back over the past thousand years and see how enormous variations in population have altered the society in which we live. How when the Romans came to civilize us in A.D. 50, we were some 300,000 strong. When the French came to civilize us in 1066, we were some three million strong. When the Doomsday Book was written, the three million people of Britain had created more named communities, more villages and places than there are in Britain today.

Why? Because of 300 years of long war—the Hundred Years War was really a 300-year war—of the Black Death, of diminishing population. We lost people and eradicated many of those villages and towns that were there in the Doomsday Book.

Then came the great bubble of Queen Elizabeth I. The population, of course, was growing like nobody’s business, throwing out Shakespeare’s and Milton’s and Books of Common Prayer, and John Dunne, and all that genius as the population burgeoned. But it wasn’t until the end of the eighteenth century that my small island finally caught up with France and our populations equaled each other.

After the Battle of Waterloo, they fully equaled each other, and of course it was that period that started a century of Empire.

Today my small island has 1 percent of the world’s population and in my children’s time it is almost certain to go down to something like half a percent of the world’s population, although we remain the fourth biggest economy in the world.

So these changes as one looks back only show how, first of all, population changes colossally, and secondly, its effect on all of us and our culture and our life gets to the very heart of the human condition.

This morning we’re going to hear first from Wolfgang Lutz. I should say that Mr. Lutz is really Mr. Population. He is the great world expert on population, and just for this conference, at least, he’s produced a new book—put out by Cambridge University, I see—which I’m sure we’ll be hearing about.

Mr. Lutz comes from Austria. He is a very distinguished member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, received his degree in statistics there and in demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Lutz left behind his watch, so he’s asked me to call him to order when he has spoken for 25 minutes, which I shall do, and then we will set the hounds upon him.

And I’d like to introduce those hounds. First, of course, is Walt Rostow, who it would be cheeky of me to introduce in this community, one of Texas’s most famous sons on both sides of the Atlantic, and a member, of course, of this Society for many years.

Next to him is Steve Murdock, who’s head of rural sociology at Texas A&M and has written really the great book on Texas population change called The Texas Challenge. And next to him is John Haaga, who has had enormous experience internationally in Malaysia and Bangladesh. This is experience that his bosses have told him is just right for a new job as head of domestic programs in the United States for the Population Reference Bureau.