Monday, September 14, 2009

The Man behind the Man

I've been meaning to do this post for a while but keep putting it off. But, there is no time like the present.

Last month The Economist reviewed a new biography of Friederich Engels (HT to Arts & Letters Daily). Long-time readers of this blog know I’m interested in the history of economics - the ideas and lives of the theorists who shaped the field. And while most are familiar with Karl Marx, fewer know his collaborator and backer, Friederich Engels.

One of the more interesting aspects of Engels life is that he was the son of a successful German capitalist. He was sent to England to run the family business, in the hope that exposure to the hurly-burly of everyday commerce would spark his interest and draw him away from some of the more radical ideas about he had picked up. To say the least, it didn't work.

Friederich arrived in Manchester on the heels of one of the more significant downturns of the 19th century. He not only saw the dark side of the industrial revolution, he saw the pitiable effects of a global financial crisis as it played through England. His book, The Condition of the Working Class in England was an assigned reading in my graduate days. I strongly recommend it to those interested in the period, but with the caveat that they keep in mind the context in which it was written.

While I've not read this biography, I am adding it to my list of books to read. In the interim, I am adding both it and The Condition of the Working Class to my carousel at left. If you are moved to purchase either, please consider doing so through the carousel to help support this blog.

I welcome any comments or insights by those of you who have read either book.

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