The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 is one of the best-known works of Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...


Originally written in German as Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England, it is a study of the working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 in Victorian England. It was also Engels' first book, written during his stay in Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 from 1842 to 1844. Manchester was then at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, and Engels compiled his study from his own observations and detailed contemporary reports.
Engels argues that the Industrial Revolution made workers worse off. He shows, for example, that in large industrial cities mortality from disease, as well as death-rates for workers were higher than in the countryside. In cities like Manchester and Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 mortality from smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

, measles
Measles, also known as rubeola or morbilli, is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus, specifically a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. Morbilliviruses, like other paramyxoviruses, are enveloped, single-stranded, negative-sense RNA viruses...

, scarlet fever
Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by exotoxin released by Streptococcus pyogenes. Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics...

 and whooping cough
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough , is a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by Bordetella pertussis. Symptoms are initially mild, and then develop into severe coughing fits, which produce the namesake high-pitched "whoop" sound in infected babies and children when they inhale air...

 was four times as high as in the surrounding countryside, and mortality from convulsions was ten times as high as in the countryside. The overall death-rate in Manchester and Liverpool was significantly higher than the national average (one in 32.72 and one in 31.90 and even one in 29.90, compared with one in 45 or one in 46).
An interesting example shows the increase in the overall death-rates in the industrial town of Carlisle. Prior to the introduction of mills (1779-1787), 4,408 out of 10,000 children died before reaching the age of five. After the introduction of mills the figure rose to 4,738. Prior to the introduction of mills, 1,006 out of 10,000 adults died before reaching 39 years old. After the introduction of mills the death rate rose to 1,261 out of 10,000

It is considered by many to be a classic account of the condition of the industrial working class. It was originally addressed to a German audience. The eldest son of a successful German textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

 industrialist, Engels became involved in radical journalism as a teenager. Sent to England, what he saw made him even more radical. About this time he formed his life-long intellectual partnership with Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...


The German original

In the original German edition he said:
The condition of the working-class is the real basis and point of departure of all social movements of the present because it is the highest and most unconcealed pinnacle of the social misery existing in our day. French and German working-class Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 are its direct, Fourierism and English Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

, as well as the Communism of the German educated bourgeoisie, are its indirect products. A knowledge of proletarian conditions is absolutely necessary to be able to provide solid ground for socialist theories, on the one hand, and for judgments about their right to exist, on the other; and to put an end to all sentimental dreams and fancies pro and con. But proletarian conditions exist in their classical form, in their perfection, only in the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, particularly in England proper. Besides, only in England has the necessary material been so completely collected and put on record by official enquiries as is essential for any in the least exhaustive presentation of the subject.

We Germans more than anybody else stand in need of a knowledge of the facts concerning this question. And while the conditions of existence of Germany's proletariat have not assumed the classical form that they have in England, we nevertheless have, at bottom, the same social order, which sooner or later must necessarily reach the same degree of acuteness as it has already attained across the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, unless the intelligence of the nation brings about in time the adoption of measures that will provide a new basis for the whole social system. The root-causes whose effect in England has been the misery and oppression of the proletariat exist also in Germany and in the long run must engender the same results.

English editions

The book was translated into English in 1885 by an American, Florence Kelley
Florence Kelley
Florence Kelley was an American social and political reformer. Her work against sweatshops and for the minimum wage, eight-hour workdays, and children's rights is widely regarded today.-Family:...

 (also known as Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky). Authorised by Engels and with a newly written preface by him, it was published in 1887 in New York, and in London in 1891. These English editions had the qualification in 1844 added to the English title.

Engels in his 1892 preface said:
The author, at that time, was young, twenty-four years of age, and his production bears the stamp of his youth with its good and its faulty features, of neither of which he feels ashamed... The state of things described in this book belongs to-day, in many respects, to the past, as far as England is concerned. Though not expressly stated in our recognised treatises, it is still a law of modern Political Economy that the larger the scale on which capitalistic production is carried on, the less can it support the petty devices of swindling and pilfering which characterise its early stages...

Again, the repeated visitations of cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

, small-pox, and other epidemics have shown the British bourgeois the urgent necessity of sanitation
Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes. Hazards can be either physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic...

 in his towns and cities, if he wishes to save himself and family from falling victims to such diseases. Accordingly, the most crying abuses described in this book have either disappeared or have been made less conspicuous...

But while England has thus outgrown the juvenile state of capitalist
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 exploitation described by me, other countries have only just attained it. France, Germany, and especially America, are the formidable competitors who, at this moment — as foreseen by me in 1844 — are more and more breaking up England’s industrial monopoly. Their manufactures are young as compared with those of England, but increasing at a far more rapid rate than the latter; and, curious enough, they have at this moment arrived at about the same phase of development as English manufacture in 1844. With regard to America, the parallel is indeed most striking. True, the external surroundings in which the working-class is placed in America are very different, but the same economical laws are at work, and the results, if not identical in every respect, must still be of the same order. Hence we find in America the same struggles for a shorter working-day, for a legal limitation of the working-time, especially of women and children in factories
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

; we find the truck-system
Truck system
A truck system is an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute , rather than with standard money. This limits employees' ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer...

 in full blossom, and the cottage-system, in rural districts, made use of by the 'bosses' as a means of domination over the workers...

It will be hardly necessary to point out that the general theoretical standpoint of this book — philosophical, economical, political — does not exactly coincide with my standpoint of to-day. Modern international Socialism, since fully developed as a science, chiefly and almost exclusively through the efforts of Marx, did not as yet exist in 1844. My, book represents one of the phases of its embryonic development; and as the human embryo, in its early stages, still reproduces the gill-arches of our fish-ancestors, so this book exhibits everywhere the traces of the descent of Modern Socialism from one of its ancestors, German philosophy.

The book has recently been reissued by Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

 (ISBN 0-19-283688-9).


External links

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