The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844

Frederick Engels
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Working-Class in England in

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Title: The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 with a
Preface written in 1892
Author: Frederick Engels

Release Date: December 13, 2005 [eBook #17306]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the January 1943 George Allen & Unwin reprint of
the March 1892 edition by David Price, email [email protected]

The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 With a Preface
written in 1892
Translated by Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky London GEORGE
Museum Street

The book, an English translation of which is here republished, was first
issued in Germany in 1845. 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. It was translated into English, in 1885, by an American lady,
Mrs. F. Kelley Wischnewetzky, and published in the following year in
New York. The American edition being as good as exhausted, and
having never been extensively circulated on this side of the Atlantic,
the present English copyright edition is brought out with the full
consent of all parties interested.
For the American edition, a new Preface and an Appendix were written
in English by the author. The first had little to do with the book itself; it
discussed the American Working-Class Movement of the day, and is,
therefore, here omitted as irrelevant, the second--the original

preface--is largely made use of in the present introductory remarks.
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. The
pettifogging business tricks of the Polish Jew, the representative in
Europe of commerce in its lowest stage, those tricks that serve him so
well in his own country, and are generally practised there, he finds to
be out of date and out of place when he comes to Hamburg or Berlin;
and, again, the commission agent, who hails from Berlin or Hamburg,
Jew or Christian, after frequenting the Manchester Exchange for a few
months, finds out that, in order to buy cotton yarn or cloth cheap, he,
too, had better drop those slightly more refined but still miserable wiles
and subterfuges which are considered the acme of cleverness in his
native country. The fact is, those tricks do not pay any longer in a large
market, where time is money, and where a certain standard of
commercial morality is unavoidably developed, purely as a means of
saving time and trouble. And it is the same with the relation between
the manufacturer and his "hands."
The revival of trade, after the crisis of 1847, was the dawn of a new
industrial epoch. The repeal of the Corn Laws and the financial reforms
subsequent thereon gave to English industry and commerce all the
elbow- room they had asked for. The discovery of the Californian and
Australian gold-fields followed in rapid succession. The Colonial
markets developed at an increasing rate their capacity for absorbing
English manufactured goods. In India millions of hand-weavers were
finally crushed out by the Lancashire power-loom. China was more and
more being opened up. Above all, the United States--then,
commercially speaking, a mere colonial market, but by far the biggest
of them all--underwent an economic development astounding even for
that rapidly progressive country. And, finally, the new means of
communication introduced at the close of the preceding
period--railways and ocean steamers--were now worked out on an

international scale; they realised actually, what had hitherto existed
only potentially, a world-market. This world-market, at first, was
composed of a number of chiefly or entirely agricultural countries
grouped around one manufacturing centre--England--which consumed
the greater part of their surplus raw produce, and supplied them in
return with the greater part of their requirements in manufactured
articles. No wonder England's industrial progress was colossal and
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