The Condition of the Working Class in England

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Overview

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 Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/1987
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 459,638
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 0.79 (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

Edited with a Foreword by Victor Kiernan

Foreword To the Working Classes of Great Britain Preface to the First German Edition Preface to the English Edition
Introduction
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 Coal-mining The production of pottery Agriculture Roadways, canals, railroads, steamboats Summary 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 Whitechapel The interior of the workers' dwellings The homeless in the parks Night refuges Dublin Edinburgh Liverpool Factory towns: Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield Lancashire: General description Bolton Stockport Ashton-under-Lyne Stalybridge 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 Ancoats Little Ireland Hulme Salford Summary Lodging-houses Overcrowdedness of population Cellar dwellings The clothing of the workers Food Tainted meat Adulteration of provision False weights, etc.
General conclusion
Competition
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
Results
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 Consumption 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 Ignorance 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 Drunkenness Sexual irregularities Neglect of family duties Contempt for the existing social order Crimes 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 Night-work Cripples 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 Accidents 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 Slavery 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
Stocking-weavers The lace industry Calico printers Staffordshire Sheffield Production of machinery Potteries in the north of Staffordshire Manufacture of glass Handicraftsmen Dressmakers and sewing-women
Labour Movements
Preliminary remarks Crimes 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 Chartism The history of the Chartist movement Insurrection of 1842
The decisive separation of proletarian Chartism from bourgeois radicalism The social nature of Chartism Socialism 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 Morals 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 Incendiarisms 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 Crimes 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
Index
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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    Posted March 5, 2013

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