In Manpower Shortage and the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West, Arthur E. R. Boak, applying to population trends in antiquity the methods worked out by modern demographers, shows that there was a real and general decline in both rural and town population of the Roman Empire in the West from the middle of the second century on; that the Late Empire was from its beginnings faced with a marked deficiency in human resources; and that this manpower shortage was the cause—not, as has been held, the consequence—of much that has been considered authoritarian in the administration of Late Rome. This analysis throws new light on the economic and social legislation of Diocletian, Constantine I, and their successors.

As the first detailed picture of the population policies of the Western Empire, and their effects on its government service, the study concerns economists and sociologists as well as historians and classicists.