Friedrich Engels: The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844



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Unit

7

Industrial Revolution: Living conditions of the Working Class




Name: ____________________________________________ Date: __________________________ P.______
Friedrich Engels: The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844
Friedrich Engels was a German social scientist who traveled to Germany to observe the working and living conditions of the impoverished factory workers, or working class. He recorded his observations of the wretched living conditions in the working class district of Manchester England. He observed the social divide between the upper & middle classes and between the impoverished working class. This divide, or economic gap, he observed would later be very influential in his works with Karl Marx and developing the philosophical ideas of Socialism.
1. Who is Friedrich Engels? What did his observations later influence?

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Read the excerpt from Engels’ book, The Conditions of the Working Class in England, pulblished in 1844, below. Then answer the corresponding questions on the back of this sheet after you have read the excerpt.
The Houses are packed very closely together and since the bank of the river is very steep it is possible to see a part of every house. All of them have been blackened by soot, all of them are crumbling with age and all have broken window panes and window-frames. In the background there are old factory buildings which look like barracks. On the opposite, low-lying bank of the river, one sees a long row of houses and factories. The second house is a roofless ruin, filled with refuse, and the third is built in such a low situation that the ground floor is uninhabitable and has neither doors nor windows. In the Background one sees the paupers’1 cemetery and the stations of the railways to Liverpool and Leeds…

The recently constructed extension of the Leeds railway which crosses the Irk at this point has swept away some of these courts and alleys, but it has thrown pen to the public gaze some of the others. So it comes about that there is to be found immediately under the railway bridge a court which is even filthier and more revolting than all the others. This is simply because it was formerly so hidden and secluded that it could only be reached with considerable difficulty [but is now exposed to the human eye]. I thought I knew this district well, but even I would never have found it had not the railway viaduct [elevated roadway] made a breach2 in the slums at this point. One walks along a very rough path on the river bank, in between clothesposts and washing lines, to reach a chaotic group of little, one-storied, one-roomed cabins. Most of them have earth floors, and working, living and sleeping all take place in the one room. In such a hole, barely six feet long and five feet wide, I saw two beds – and what beds and bedding! – which filled the room, except for the fireplace and the doorstep. Several of these huts, as far as I could see, were completely empty, although the door was open and the inhabitants were leaning against the door posts. In front of the doors filth and garbage abounded. I could not see the pavement, but from time to time I felt it was there because my feet scraped it…

2. How did the development of the railways affect working class districts? Use on quote to support your answer.

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3. How does Engels feel about the living conditions that he observes? Use one quote to support your answer.

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4. What seems to be Engels’ general attitude toward the Industrial Revolution? What evidence from the excerpt supports your reasoning?

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5. How do the living conditions for the poor working class in Manchester England seem overall? Are they good or bad? Would you want to live in those conditions? Why?

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1 Pauper (PAW pur) n. poor person

2 Breach (breech) n. break

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