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The Condition of the Working Class in England

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,673 ratings  ·  92 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 2nd 1987 by Penguin Classics (first published 1845)
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Trevor
I’ve read bits of this before, but never the whole thing. In part, you probably wouldn’t read this now, because Marx covers a lot of the same ground in the first volume of Capital - and the stuff here is perhaps what many people would use to say, ‘at least Capitalism isn’t as bad as it was back then’. And Engels’ description of the horrors of the work houses, for instance - how people would literally starve themselves to death rather than go to them - make it difficult to find a comparable place ...more
Edward
Maps
Introduction, by Tristram Hunt
To the Working Classes of Great Britain
Preface to the First German Edition
Preface to the English Edition


--The Condition of the Working Class in England

Epilogue, by Victor Kiernan
Chronology
Further Reading
Index
Deborah Pickstone
Engels' study of the working class in Manchester in the 19th century. Personally, Engels was the hero not Marx - and is also the more accessible writer. This is a fascinating account of what it was to be working class at that time. It is a classic of whatever genre you wish to ascribe it to, very readable (this is at least my 5th re-read, for a challenge).
Gary
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I must say upfront I detest Marxist-Leninism in its 20th century form and the post-modern left with their support for terrorism, Islamism , Jew/Israel-hatred, dictatorship and anti-white racism. Though I am a democratic socialist in the tradition of
Aneurin Bevan and Harold Wilson . But this book as a work of history for anyone studying the circumstances of the working class in Britain at the time this is indispensable
As a historian Engels was brilliant.
The fact is that the Industrial Revolution
...more
Clif
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
The only reason I don't give this book five stars is that a good part of it is filled with a detailed account of the very thing it is supposed to be about - the awful condition of the workers. How can that be a liability? It is because you don't need to know all the details in 2011.

You can get an excellent idea of the conditions by reading just a few pages - long hours, dangerous machinery, no sick leave, poor nutrition, freezing or hot work environment, preying upon women by overseers, fines or
...more
Jade Heslin
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This started off as being the foulest piece of drudgery that I had ever cast my eyes upon. Engels is a very wordy man, and once he gets going he’s like a steam train in motion. But once we get past the gruelling first chapter, in which he lists all the different types of fabrics and methods of making them, we actually get a terrific, thought-provoking, persuasive argument against capitalism.

AND IT HAS LOTS OF MANCHESTER IN IT! He wrote this while he was here with his bezzo, Karl Marx. I
...more
David Wen
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Sobering look into the lives of people during the industrial revolution. It's very apparent why communism was started given the situations the people had to endure. Class warfare on an extreme scale compared to what it's like nowadays.
Rachel
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Marxists; labor historians; Victorian studies readers
Excellent work on Industrial Revolution, but it does contain racist ugly filth about the Irish.
Xander
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1843, Friedrich Engels decided to tour Great Britain to witness, with his own eyes, how the British labourer was living. He would, in the end, spend 21 months in the region, talking to poor folk, witnessing the conditions of these wretches, and subsequently write a book about his experiences. In 1845, he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, in Germany. It was only near the end of his life that Engels decided to publish this book in England.

The book is a magnificent
...more
Comrade  Mohd Aliff
This book paints a VERY shocking picture of 19th century England during Industrial Revolution and also of Capitalism in general. It's not a theoretical work unlike many of Engels' other works but rather a SOCIAL REPORT on how the workers being exploited while denying them the most basic principles of human rights and dignity. A must-read classics; readable and informative.
Andrea
In the words of my partner, a corker. It leaves you with a number of impressions.

The most overpowering is just rage and sadness at how the industrial revolution decimated lives. Half of children dead by the age of 5, average life expectancy from 45 to 50, the malnourtrition, cold, damp, misshapen bodies, impotency and infertility, lost limbs, lost lives.
'The English working men call this 'social murder', and accuse our whole society of perpetrating this crime perpetually. Are they wrong? (38)

...more
Gary
Aug 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I must say upfront I detest Marxist-Leninism in its 20th century form and the post-modern left with their support for terrorism, Islamism , Jew/Israel-hatred, dictatorship and anti-white racism. Though I am a democratic socialist in the tradition of
Aneurin Bevan and Harold Wilson . But this book as a work of history for anyone studying the circumstances of the working class in Britain at the time this is indispensable
As a historian Engels was brilliant.
The fact is that the Industrial Revolution
...more
Anton Himmelstrand
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librivox
Enjoyable both as an historical document and as a political statement about industrial society.

In “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, Engels gives a long an detailed description of the state of the great Victorian industrial towns – and of their less fortunate inhabitants. The reader is shepherded through crumbling working-man's districts, gin-palaces, prison-like factory floors, mines filled with lung-destroying dust, damp cellars and the increasingly mechanized countryside. In
...more
J
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: marxism
Heavily detailed and a little repetitive in content, hence many pages were skim-read. A fantastic insight into the conditions of the working class in the early days of industrialisation and capitalism. An important historical text.
Kevin Varney
An interesting book. I have read Elizabeth Gaskell's books North and South and Mary Barton, which are set in the same city at the same time about the same people. It was interesting to compare and contrast. This is what unregulated laisser-faire market economics looks like.
Claire
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I have read this - Engels is as fun of a person as Marx!
It is not very happy of a book, but in my History of Communism class, I am positive I saw this before.
G.D. Master
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Academics, economists, sociologists, literary critics, and philosophers
During the nineteenth century steam power and the cotton gin changed economics, cities, and social classes. Much of the industrialized specialization or rationalization of the world that people and the media take for granted in the twenty-first century began during this period. More people started to live in cities and a middle class labor force grew from employment in industry and commerce. Unforeseen problems began to occur when industrialists learned that they could use workers for extended ...more
Scott Goddard
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This anthropological, ethnographic study examines the English Working Class, with particular emphasis and inquiry into the "North", that is to say, Manchester, Scotland, and other towns and cities that lie above Birmingham. Of course Engels lucidly describes towns and cities of the South, but to a lesser extent.

From a quick cursory read over the other reviews, one criticism of the book is a recurrent iteration of the same point; for me, this point does not hold, and I felt there to be a
...more
S.D.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
America “solved” its class problem with a myth of upward mobility that appeared to be real for three decades, thanks to what Galbraith in 1952 called countervailing power; a means Engles suggested, more than a century, was the only resource available to the destitute working class of England – albeit as a step toward revolution. Perhaps the English working class Engles credits with knowing the cause of its mid-19th Century plight did comprehend it better than America’s in the 21st Century, where ...more
Deborah Markus
Jul 06, 2012 marked it as to-read
Want to read this because Jeannette Winterson recommends it in "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" According to her, it's "a frightening, upsetting account of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on ordinary people -- what happens when people 'regard each other only as useful objects.'"
Anthony Zupancic
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
It certainly identifies the horrible social effects of the industrial revolution. If you are unsure where the Communist Manifesto came from, or why, read this.
Ben
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Littered with Marxist thought, but otherwise a really good insight into 19th century Britain.
Nihad
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
The books is a very important text if you are a researcher or you like history, other than that no fun read.though some parts are repetitive and boring, but on the overall an insightful reading.
Nattyc30
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Re-Read
Katy
May 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I was interested in reading this because I wanted to read a historical account of what it was like to be an ordinary working class person in the 19th century. I was not expecting it to be more of a political text.

I would say 40% of this book was what I wanted, interesting historical details, and the rest was just socialist and communist ideology.

I wonder what Engels and Marx would have thought when they saw the evils that 20th century communism committed in their names; all of the senseless
...more
Adam Ford
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Engels wrote this assessment of the English class when he was very young, new to Manchester, and as bourgeois as those he criticised so scathingly here. He also thought the revolution was imminent, had some strange opinions about Irish people, and in general was not the great materialist he would later become. Still, well worth the read for the snapshot of the English struggle, and perhaps also for those in 'developing' nations, where workers are being newly super-exploited in a similar way to ...more
Sophie
Read 'The Great Towns' for a class, definitely need to read the whole of it.
Johannes C
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At it again with those mills. I'm really into the history of mills. Sorry, but mills are a thing for me. I want to do an STS dissertation on mills so if any of y'all know professors who want grad students to write stuff on mills -- I'm right here, hmu. Ok, Engels (of Communist Manifesto fame, but he didn't really write any of it): he's from a rich and austere Calvinist family, in Germany. They owned a bunch of mills -- one in Manchester. Engels was a naughty boy with radical ideas, so his father ...more
Derek
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much of Engels’ work is sorely undervalued. In the prefaces to the later American and English editions of the book, he criticizes himself for his philosophical missteps due to the undeveloped state of Communist theory at the time, but what does exist here is a really monumental work of sociology the likes of which I can’t really say had been previously attempted, by far excusing the missteps on his part. Without this research, Capital would have been far more difficult to produce in the form ...more
Stephen Mahon
Engels detailed study of the working class in Victorian England is remarkable when you consider (a) He was German and (b) he was only 25 when he completed it. He out does the anti Semitism in some of his other tomes with a fair smattering of anti Irishness in this one. But no matter. We can put that down to age. o.O Reads like a detailed and thorough report in parts, but isn't without humour. And it is a thoroughly fascinating stroll around English cities of that era.


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In 1820, Friedrich Engels was born in Germany into a wealthy family. Managing a branch of his father's business in Manchester, England, from 1842-1845, Engels became appalled at the poverty of the workers. He wrote his first socialist work, Conditions of the Working Class in England. After their meeting in 1844, Engels and Karl Marx became lifelong colleagues. While co-writing an article with ...more
“The middle classes have a truly extraordinary conception of society. They really believe that human beings . . . have real existence only if they make money or help to make it.” 24 likes
“In truth, they were not human beings; they were merely toiling machines in the service of the few aristocrats who had guided history down to that time.  The industrial revolution has simply carried this out to its logical end by making the workers machines pure and simple, taking from them the last trace of independent activity, and so forcing them to think and demand a position worthy of men.” 1 likes
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