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Friedrich Engels: Overview, History, Legacy

File Photo: Friedrich Engels: Overview, History, Legacy
File Photo: Friedrich Engels: Overview, History, Legacy File Photo: Friedrich Engels: Overview, History, Legacy

Who Is Friedrich Engels?

The German philosopher, writer, and social scientist Friedrich Engels lived in the 19th century. Friedrich Engels, known for his work with Karl Marx, shaped contemporary communism. Friedrich Engels co-authored the Communist Manifesto, a significant political text from 1848. The Englishman Engels died in London on August 5, 1895.

Friedrich Engel’s Early Life and Education

Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen, Prussia (now Germany), on November 20, 1820. The eldest son of a prosperous textile manufacturer,  Engels learned about the family company at Ermen & Engels cotton mill in Manchester, England, at 17.

Born into a moderate political family devoted to Prussia and Protestantism, Friedrich Engels grew cynical about fundamental institutions like religion and capitalism. His publications later reflected his ideology.

The Bremen Years

Friedrich Engels resided in Bremen, Prussia, from 1838 to 1841, working in export commerce after his apprenticeship in Manchester.

He began his media, politics, and economics career under the alias “Friedrich Oswald” during “The Bremen Years.”. He was active in young German literature and social change. Friedrich Engels was a merchant’s clerk and an anonymous journalist, critic, and thinker in Bremen for three years.

Meeting Marx

Friedrich Engels joined a Berlin artillery regiment as a one-year volunteer in 1841. He attended university lectures in the city and joined Karl Marx’s Young Hegelian group of The Free with his “Friedrich Oswald” essays.

The Young or Left Hegelians were extreme followers of German idealist Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel from the late 1830s to the mid-1840s. They thrived between the 1830 French Revolution and the 1848 European Revolution.

The Young Hegelians produced and shaped Germany’s potent blend of religion, philosophy, and politics. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels led this revolutionary organization.


Life as a Young Hegelian at Berlin University and his family mill in Manchester, England, increased Engels’ skepticism of capitalism. His support for socialism, where resources and production belong to the people for equality, increased.

In his 1845 book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, Engels described the unequal distribution of wealth during the Industrial Revolution in Manchester, including women rendered unfit for childbearing, deformed children, enfeebled men, crushed limbs, and generations of people afflicted with disease and infirmity to satisfy the bourgeoisie.

He said urban planning—how cities were socially and economically built to promote capitalism—was ripe for class struggle and revolution.

The Communist Manifesto

Engels thought capitalism sustained class warfare between the bourgeoisie, company owners, and the proletariat, workers. Marx’s theory, or Marxism, identified such imbalances and proposed a class-free political and economic system.

Engels and Marx’s 1848 Communist Manifesto laid the groundwork for the communist movement. Cities grew during economic and social transformation, and many people moved from the countryside to find work. Employers used this labor for economic gain. Engels and Marx believed class conflicts would overthrow capitalism and install socialism and communism.

The manifesto inspired a revolution and resonated throughout the 20th century. Nearly half the globe lived under Marxist regimes by 1950.

The Capital

Friedrich Engels funded the first volume of Das Kapital, published by Karl Marx in London in 1867. In Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Marx explores labor exploitation as the driving force behind capitalism and seeks to provide a theoretical framework for its downfall.


Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx laid the basis for communism, where people live in social harmony without class, family, religion, or property.

Works by them include The Condition of the Working Class in England, The Communist Manifesto, The Holy Family, and Das Kapital.

After the death of Karl Marx in 1883, Engels became the leading authority on Marx and edited Das Kapital twice. In addition to Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880), he authored The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) and Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (1888).

Friedrich Engels communicated with German social democrats throughout his life, promoting Marxism and uniformity among their adherents.

What inspired Friedrich Engel’s “The Condition of the Working Class in England”?

Engels recalls child labor, environmental destruction, low earnings, awful conditions, poor health, and high worker mortality rates in Manchester, England, in the book.

Where Are Friedrich Engels’ Published Works Written as Pseudonym Friedrich Oswald?

After Engels’ death, Bremen retained 30 of his pseudonym’s literary works. Pseudonym disclosed after death.

What is utopian socialism?

Utopians thought that moral argument alone could convince capitalists to peacefully give over the means of production, unlike Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, who believed in an inevitable revolution.

Bottom Line

Friedrich Engels championed communism and social revolution in the 19th century. Engels’ works and Karl Marx’s shaped societies worldwide, including the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and China.


  • In 1848, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx authored the Communist Manifesto.
  • He also wrote as Friedrich Oswald.
  • After Karl Marx’s death, Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital.
  • Engels, together with Marx, founded contemporary communism.

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