The Condition of the Working Class in England

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The Condition of the Working Class is the best-known work of Engels, and in many ways still the best study of the working class in Victorian England. It was also Engels's first book, written during his stay in Manchester from 1842 to 1844. Manchester was then at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution and Engels compiled his study from his own observations and detailed contemporary reports. The fluency of his writing, the personal nature of his insights, and his talent for mordant satire combine to make this account of the life of the victims of early industrial change into a classic - a historical study that parallels and complements the fictional works of the time by such writers as Gaskell and Dickens. What Cobbett had done for agricultural poverty in his Rural Rides, Engels did - and more - in this work on the plight of the industrial workers in the England of the early 1840s. This edition includes the prefaces to the English and American editions, and a map of Manchester c.1845.

The study of England's factory, mine and farm workers, written when Engels was 24, is a savage indictment of thje bourgeoisie.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a very nicely-produced edition at a price practical for course use. David McClellan's introduction is clear and useful."--J. Boyden, Tulane University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140444865
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1987
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,255,340
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Westphalia in 1820, Friedrich Engels was the son of a textile manufacturer. After military training in Berlin and already a convert to communism, Engels went to Manchester in 1842 to represent the family firm. A relationship with a mill-hand, Mary Bums, and friendship with local Owenites and Chartists helped to inspire his famous early work, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. Collaboration with Marx began in 1844 and in 1847 he composed the first drafts of the Manifesto. After playing an active part in the German revolutions, Engels returned to work in Manchester until 1870, when he moved to London. He not only helped Marx financially, but reinforced their shared position through his own expositions of the new theory. After Marx’s death, he prepared the unfinished volumes of Capital for publication. He died in London in 1895.

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Table of Contents

The Condition of the Working Class in England - Friedrich Engels Edited with a Foreword by Victor Kiernan

To the Working Classes of Great Britain
Preface to the First German Edition
Preface to the English Edition
The state of the workers before the Industrial Revolution
The jenny
Emergence of the industrial and the agricultural proletariat
The throstle, the mule, the power-loom, the steam-engine
The victory of machine-work over hand-work
The development of industrial might
The cotton industry
The hosiery manufacture
The manufacture of lace
Dyeing, bleaching, printing
The manufacture of wool
The linen trade
The manufacture of silk
The production and manufacture of iron
The production of pottery
Roadways, canals, railroads, steamboats
The emergence of the proletariat as a factor of national importance
The middle-class's view of the workers
The Industrial Proletariat
Classification of the proletariat
Centralization of property
The levers of modern manufacture
Centralization of population
The Great Towns
The impression produced by London
The social war and the system of general plundering
The lot of the poor
General description of the slums
In London: St. Giles and the adjoining quarters
The interior of the workers' dwellings
The homeless in the parks
Night refuges
Factory towns: Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield
Lancashire: General description
Detailed description of Manchester: the general system of its building
The Old Town
The New Town
The method of construction of working-men's quarters
Courts and side streets
Little Ireland
Overcrowdedness of population
Cellar dwellings
The clothing of the workers
Tainted meat
Adulteration of provision
False weights, etc.
General conclusion
Competition among the workers determines the minimum of wages, competition among the property-holding people determines their maximum
The worker, the slave of the bourgeoisie, is forced to sell himself by the day, and by the hour
Surplus population
Commercial crises
A reserve army of workers
The hard lot of this reserve army during the crisis of 1842
Irish Immigration
The causes and figures
Description by Thomas Carlyle
Lack of cleanliness, crudeness and drunkenness among the Irishmen
The influence of Irish competition and of the contacts with the Irish upon the English workers
Preliminary remarks
The influence of the above-described conditions on the health of the workers
The influence of large towns, dwellings, uncleanliness, etc.
The facts
Typhus, in particular in London, Scotland, and Ireland
Digestive troubles
The results of drunkenness
Quack remedies
"Godfrey's Cordial"
Mortality among workers, especially among young children
Accusation of the bourgeoisie of social murder
Influence on the mental and moral condition of the workers
Absence of the necessary conditions for education
Inadequacy of evening and Sunday schools
The worker's living conditions give him a sort of practical training
Neglect of the workers' moral training
The law as the only instructor in morals
The worker's conditions of life tempt him to disregard law and morality
The influence of poverty and insecurity of existence upon the proletariat
Forced work
The centralization of the population
Irish immigration
The difference in character between the worker and the bourgeois
The proletarian's advantages over the bourgeois
The unfavourable sides of the proletarian character
Sexual irregularities
Neglect of family duties
Contempt for the existing social order
Description of the social war
Single Barnches of Industry. Factory-hands
The influence of machinery
Hand-loom weavers
The work of men being superseded by machinery
Female labour, the dissolution of the family
The reversal of all relations within the family
The moral consequences of the mass employment of women in factories
Jus primae noctis
The work of children
The apprentice system
Subsequent measures
The facts related by the Factory Report
Long working-day
Other deformities
The nature of factory work
Relaxation of the whole organism
Special diseases
Testimony of the Commissioners
Premature old age
The specific influence of factory work upon the female physique
Some especially injurious branches
The bourgeoisie's opinion of the factory system
Factory laws and agitation for the Ten Hours' Bill
The stupefying and demoralizing nature of factory work
Factory regulations
The truck system
The cottage system
The comparison of the serf of 1145 with the free working man of 1845
The Remaining Branches of Industry
The lace industry
Calico printers
Production of machinery
Potteries in the north of Staffordshire
Manufacture of glass
Dressmakers and sewing-women
Labour Movements
Preliminary remarks
Revolts against machinery
Associations, strikes
The objects of the unions and strikes
Excesses connected with them
The general character of the struggle waged by the English proletariat against the bourgeoisie
The battle in Manchester in May 1843
Respect for the law is alien to the proletariat
The history of the Chartist movement
Insurrection of 1842
The decisive separation of proletarian Chartism from bourgeois radicalism
The social nature of Chartism
The working men's views
The Mining Proletariat
Cornish miners
Alston Moor
Coal and iron mines
The work of grown-up men, women and children
Special afflictions
Work in low shafts
Accidents, explosions, etc.
Mental education
Laws relating to the mining industry
Systematic exploitation of the coal-miners
The beginning of the workers' movement
The union of coal-miners
The great campaign of 1844 in the north of England
Roberts and the campaign against Justices of the Peace and the truck system
The results of the struggle
The Agricultural Proletariat
Historical survey
Pauperism in the country
The condition of the wage-workers
Indifference to the Corn Laws
Religious state of the agricultural labourers
Wales: small tenants
"Rebecca" disturbances
Ireland: subdivision of the land
Pauperization of the Irish nation
Agitation for the repeal of the union with England
The Attitude of the Bourgeoisie towards the Proletariat
Demoralization of the English bourgeoisie
Its avarice
Political economy and free competition
Pharisaic charity
The hypocrisy of political economy and politics in the question of the Corn Laws
Bourgeois legislation and justice
The bourgeoisie in Parliament
A bill regulating the relation of master and servant
Malthus's theory
The Old Poor Law
The New Poor Law
Examples of the brutal treatment of the poor in the workhouses
The chances of the English bourgeoisie
A note on the text:
The text printed here is basically the original translation made by Florence Wischnewetzky for the American edition which Engels published in 1886; however, it is taken from the Moscow English edition, whose editors checked it against the German first edition for accuracy, and it has given some stylistic revision for this Penguin Classics edition.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    For most, Charles Dickens is the only source we've encountered regarding the awful human misery of the early industrial revolution. However, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx reported on it, too. Indeed, most of their criticisms were far more applicable to the raw capitalism of contemporary England than their native Germany. Engels stayed in Manchester, the premier industrial city of the time, during the early 1840's to research his book. And he produced a devastating indictment of the truly miserable and life-threatening living conditions he found. Unlike Marx, Engels had a pronounced flair for writing he makes it a fascinating, eye-opening journey back through time. The topics he includes cover: struggling labor movements, the denigrating effects of immigration on domestic workers (due to competing subsistence-cost labor), the ignorance and crippling of child workers, the sexual exploitation of women workers, the displacement of male heads of household by lower-cost and more pliant women/children, the unbelievable filth and subhuman housing conditions workers endured, the dangerous and unhealthy working conditions of miners/factory workers, rampant substance abuse, doping of children by babysitters, the total lack of legal redress for the poor, the displacement of labor by machinery, and the role of unbridled competition in perpetrating economic distress. While we all know communism has failed, its rise was due to these very real and serious problems, some of which remain with many Western workers today. And most of these conditions do very much persist in emerging economies right now. So, even though the book is well over 150 years old it is still highly valid! The main fault of course with Marx/Engels' communist philosophy is that ALL humans are greedy and lazy - it's just that the clever ones (whether they originate from 'bourgeous' or 'working' classes) will always exploit the others. And it doesn't matter whether the system is capitalist or communist - those at the top will always exploit those below for personal advantage. Probably the best response has been the progressive social reform in Western nations over the last 100 years. (Revolutions and dictatorships usually only lead to mass murder.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

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