The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels

The book ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ written by Engels Friedrich, a German social scientist and political theorist, is a manifestation of the evils that accompanied what is known as industrial revolution. Principally, Engels’s piece of writing is owed to the conditions of industrial proletariat in great towns of England, and as such, his researched work that spanned between the years 1842 and 1844 originated from the city of Manchester. In his research, Engels compares the working conditions of the ‘working class’ during pre and post industrial revolution epoch to a shocking revelation. He revealed that the working conditions post-industrial revolution was worse off, and as such it was synonymous with unpleasant living, low wages notwithstanding. Basically, whatever came out of industrial revolution were industrial proletariats, and the more the industries multiplied the more delicate a situation was engendered.

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The late Engels (1820-1895) was a Germany national of whom a part from aforementioned sphere of interest was an author cum philosopher. Apart from Karl Marx, he is prominently known to be the brainchild of Marxist theory. Born of German affluent parents owning a cotton manufacturing plant, Engels, an atheist, was a maverick and hence, differed on many occasions with his parents- Christians. To this effect, in an effort to rehabilitate him (Engels), he was taken to Manchester in England (1842). Nevertheless, he was apparently incorrigible. It was here that he published his first book- ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845).’ Moreover, this is where he met Karl Marx, and together, they authored and published several philosophical literatures. He then progressed with the then deceased Karl Marx’s pending findings until his death in 1895.

In this context, Engels’s works centers on the effects of industrial revolution on social-economic aspects of the then people that had firsthand experience with its inception. In a nutshell, England is a state where the history of the proletarians can be studied in all dimensions: societal, economical, and religious among others. To this end, this paper will focus on the consequences of industrial revolution with respect to economical, societal, and religious aspects in England.

With regards to economical change, the invention of steam-engine together with weaving machines in the cotton factories marked the beginning of industrial revolution. In an era prior to this, “spinning and weaving of raw materials was carried on in the workingman’s home” (Delaney 4). As such, there were home-based factories that were set on the outskirts of towns providing descent wages. The income remained unaffected even with introduction of the foreign markets. The demand for products increased as the population burgeoned. There was no competition as the population dispersed in vast virgin lands that lay uninhabited. There was no pressure whatsoever on the farmers to cultivate hence; tilling was on voluntary basis. Consequently, this natured ‘bad farmers’ (farming weavers) nevertheless; the farmers were not proletarian as is manifested in the present day England. Thus, they could claim a stake in their country, were permanently settled, and occupied a higher social class than their successors today.

The beginning of proletarian kind of lifestyle was marked by the invention of a jenny (1764), a yarn spinner, and later, a more sophisticated mule. The events that ensued resulted in division of labor, and over-dependence on wages. This created all sorts of proletarians in virtually all sector of economy. Most notably, the ‘farming weavers’ became obsolete as division of labor staked a claim.

Significantly, prior to industrial revolution societal values were upheld. Basically, because the communities were rural-based, their children breathed fresh air, and they were ‘shut off’ from towns. However, this was a thing of the past thanks to industrial revolution which robbed them their trade. To this end, they were forced to go to towns to hunt for jobs. In societal issues, the squires, “the greatest landholder of the region” (Delaney 6), presided over, and was regarded as a natural superior member of the society. As such he was tasked with solving disputes between warring parties. Children were natured such that they impressed “obedience and the fear of God” (Delaney 7). The young people “grew up in idyllic simplicity and intimacy with their playmates until they married” (Delaney 7). Generally, all and sundry were complacent with their docile lives devoid of personal interests. This was, however, history in the wake of industrial revolution that took away their last trace of autonomous activity.

The pre-industrial revolution society exercised a holy life as stipulated in the Bible. The society natured the fear of the Lord in them, and this was passed onto their descendants. As a consequence, they were apolitical, never conspired, went to church regularly, and they listened to the Word with uttermost humbleness. So modest a life they lived that they were intellectually dead. They would maintain the status quo if not for industrial revolution. In essence, 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” (Delaney 23).

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In a conclusion, this paper has analyzed Engels’s piece of writing with respect to economical, societal, and religious aspects, highlighting the mixed fortunes that accompanied industrialization in England. According to Engels, this has brought more harm than good. To this end, it awakened people from their ‘intellectual death’ owing to their religious beliefs. This topic is vital in bringing to our understanding how people live the way they live today.

Works Cited

Delaney, Tim. The Condition of the Working Class in England. Denver: Mac Murray, 1998. Print.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels." May 21, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels'. 21 May.

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