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World population, world health and security: 20th century trends
  1. A Bashford
  1. Alison Bashford, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, Building A14, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; Alison.bashford{at}


The connection between infectious disease control and national security is now firmly entrenched. This article takes a historical look at another security issue once prominent in debate on foreign policy and international relations, but now more or less absent: overpopulation. It explores the nature of the debate on population as a security question, and its complicated historical relation to the development of world health.

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  • Funding: This research was funded by the Australian Research Council.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • iIt was growth in world rates as much as national or regional rates that exercised many at a string of international meetings on the issue. This historical research is based on the published proceedings and the unpublished organisational records of world population conferences from the International Neo-Malthusian Conference of 1910 to the UN World Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974, and on League of Nations and UN agency archival records.

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