Friedrich Engels (28 November 1820 – 5 August 1895) was a German social scientist and philosopher, who developed communist theory alongside his better-known collaborator, Karl Marx, co-authoring The Communist Manifesto (1848). Engels also edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital after Marx's death.
Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen
, Rhine Province
of the kingdom of Prussia
(now a part of Wuppertal
in North Rhine-Westphalia
) as the elder son of a German textile manufacturer, with whom he had a strained relationship. Due to family circumstances, Engels dropped out of High school
and was sent to work as a nonsalaried office clerk at a commercial house in Bremen
in 1838. During this time, Engels began reading the philosophy of Hegel
, whose teachings had dominated German philosophy
at the time. In September 1838, he published his first work, a poem titled The Bedouin
, in the Bremisches Conversationsblatt
No. 40. He also engaged in other literary and journalistic work. In 1841, Engels joined the Prussian Army as a member of the Household Artillery. This position moved him to Berlin where he attended university lectures, began to associate with groups of Young Hegelians and published several articles in the Rheinische Zeitung
. Throughout his lifetime, Engels would point out that he was indebted to German philosophy
because of its effect on his intellectual
In 1842, the 22-year-old Engels was sent to Manchester, England to work for the textile firm of Ermen and Engels in which his father was a shareholder. Engels' father thought working in at the Manchester firm might make Engels reconsider the radical learnings that he had developed in high school. On way to Manchester, Engels visited the office of the Rheinische Zeitung and met Karl Marx for the first time - though they did not impress each other. In Manchester, Engels met Mary Burns, a young woman with whom he began a relationship that lasted until her death in 1862. Mary acted as a guide through Manchester and helped introduce Engels to the English working class. The two maintained a lifelong relationship; they never married, as Engels was against the institution of marriage which he saw as unnatural and unjust.
During his time in Manchester, Engels took notes and personally observed the horrible working conditions of English workers. These notes and observations, along with his experience working in his father's commercial firm, formed the basis for his first book The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. While writing it, Engels continued his involvement with radical journalism and politics. He frequented some members of the English labour and Chartist movements and wrote for several journals, including The Northern Star, Robert Owen’s New Moral World and the Democratic Review newspaper.
After a productive stay in England, Engels decided to return to Germany
in 1844. On his way, he stopped in Paris
to meet Karl Marx
, with whom he had an earlier correspondence. Marx and Engels met at the Café de la Régence on the Place du Palais, 28 August 1844. The two became close friends
and would remain so for their entire lives. Engels ended up staying in Paris to help Marx write The Holy Family
, which was an attack on the Young Hegelians
and the Bauer
brothers. Engels' earliest contribution to Marx's work was writing to the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher
journal, which was edited by both Marx
and Arnold Ruge
in Paris in the same year.
From 1845 to 1848, Engels and Marx lived in Brussels
, spending much of their time organizing the city's German
workers. Shortly after their arrival, they contacted and joined the underground German Communist League
and were commissioned by the League to write a pamphlet explaining the principles of communism. This became the The Manifesto of the Communist Party
, better known as the Communist Manifesto
. It was first published on 21 February 1848.
Return to Prussia
During February 1848, there was a revolution in France that eventually spread to other Western European countries. This event caused Engels & Marx to go back to their home country of Prussia, specifically the city of Cologne. While living in Cologne, they created and served as editors for a new daily newspaper called the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. However, during June 1849 Prussian coup d'état the newspaper was suppressed. After the coup, Marx lost his Prussian citizenship, was deported, and fled to Paris and then London. Engels stayed in Prussia and took part in an armed uprising in South Germany as an aide-de-camp in the volunteer corps of August Willich. When the uprising was crushed, Engels managed to escape by traveling through Switzerland as a refugee and returned to England.
Back in Manchester
Once Engels made it to England, he decided to re-enter the commercial firm where his father held shares in order to help support Marx. He hated this work intensely but knew that his friend needed the support.
He started off as an office clerk, the same position he held in his teens, but eventually worked his way up to become a joint proprietor in 1864. Five years later, Engels retired from the business to focus more on his studies. At this time, Marx was living in London but they were able to exchange ideas through daily correspondence. In 1870, Engels moved to London
where he and Marx lived until Marx's death in 1883.
His London home at this time and until his death was 122 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill
, NW1. Marx's first London residence was a cramped apartment at 28 Dean Street, Soho. From 1856, he lived at 9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town, and then in a tenement at 41 Maitland Park Road from 1875 until his death.
After Marx's death, Engels devoted much of his remaining years to editing Marx's unfinished volumes of Capital
. However, he also contributed significantly to other areas. Engels made an argument using anthropological evidence of the time to show that family structures have changed over history, and that the concept of monogamous
marriage came from the necessity within class society for men to control women to ensure their own children would inherit their property. He argued a future communist society would allow people to make decisions about their relationships free from economic constraints. One of the best examples of Engels' thoughts on these issues are in his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State
Engels died of throat cancer in London in 1895. Following cremation at Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne as he had requested.
The Holy Family (1844)
The Holy Family
was a book written by Marx
& Engels in November 1844. The book is a critique on the Young Hegelians
and their trend of thought which was very popular in academic
circles at the time. The title was a suggestion by the publisher
and is meant as a sarcastic reference to the Bauer
Brothers and their supporters. The book created a controversy with much of the press
and caused Bruno Bauer
to attempt to refute the book in an article which was published in Wigand's Vierteljahrsschrift
in 1845. Bauer claimed that Marx and Engels misunderstood what he was trying to say. Marx later replied to his response with his own article that was published in the journal Gesellschaftsspiegel
in January 1846. Marx also discussed the argument in chapter 2 of The German Ideology
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1844)
The Condition of the Working Class
is a detailed description and analysis of the appalling conditions of the working class in Britain
during Engels' stay in England
. It was considered a classic in its time and still widely available today. This work also had many seminal thoughts on the state of socialism
and its development.
Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (1878)
Popularly known as Anti-Dühring
, Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science
is a detailed critique of the philosophical positions of Eugen Dühring
, a German philosopher and critic of Marxism. In the course of replying to Dühring, Engels reviews recent advances in science and mathematics and seeks to demonstrate the way in which the concepts of dialectics apply to natural phenomena. Many of these ideas were later developed in the unfinished work, Dialectics of Nature
. The last section of Anti-Dühring
was later edited and published under the separate title, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880)
In this essay, Engels critiques the utopian socialists, such as Fourier and Owen, and provides an explanation of the socialist framework for understanding capitalism.
The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884)
The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State
is an important and detailed seminal work connecting capitalism
with what Engels argues is an ever changing institution - the family. It was written when Engels was 64 years of age and at the height of his intellectual
power and contains a comprehensive historical view of the family in relation to the issues of class
, female subjugation and private property
- Carlton, Grace (1965), Friedrich Engels: The Shadow Prophet. London: Pall Mall Press
- Carver, Terrell. (1989). Friedrich Engels: His Life and Thought. London: Macmillan
- Green, John (2008), Engels: A Revolutionary Life, London: Artery Publications. ISBN 0-9558228-0-3
- Henderson, W. O. (1976), The life of Friedrich Engels, London : Cass, 1976. ISBN 0-7146-4002-6
- Mayer, Gustav (1936), Friedrich Engels: A Biography (1934; trans. 1936)
Works by Engels
Notes & References