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The Condition of the Working Class in England


The Condition of the Working Class in England Cover


Synopses & Reviews


This Marxist text is an important document on the social conditions in a Victorian industrial city. Engels describes the conditions of the working class with accuracy, compassion and anger. He discusses the life of the factory hands, the horrible industrial accidents and the pollution of the city.


Includes bibliographical references and index.

About 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.

Table of Contents

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.

Product Details

Kiernan, V. G.
Kiernan, V. G.
Kiernan, Victor
Engels, Friedrich
Penguin Books
Harmondsworth, Middlesex ;
Great britain
Minority Studies
Labor and laboring classes
Social classes
Working class
Great Britain Economic conditions 1760-1860.
Europe - Great Britain - General
Minority Studies - General
Labor & Industrial Relations
Economic Conditions
History & Theory - Radical Thought
Featured Titles-History and Social Science
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Penguin classics
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
7.83x5.09x.79 in. .52 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Immigration
History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History
History and Social Science » Europe » Western Europe » General
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History and Social Science » Politics » Marx and Engels
History and Social Science » Sociology » Social Classes
History and Social Science » World History » England » General

The Condition of the Working Class in England New Trade Paper
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Product details 304 pages Penguin Books - English 9780140444865 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This Marxist text is an important document on the social conditions in a Victorian industrial city. Engels describes the conditions of the working class with accuracy, compassion and anger. He discusses the life of the factory hands, the horrible industrial accidents and the pollution of the city.
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