The Great Town – Friedrich Engels | Summary

“The Great Towns” | From the Condition of The Working class in England in 1844 (1845)

Friedrich Engels was one of the most influential persons of the Nineteenth century for his collaborative work with Karl Marx on International Socialism which paved way for future ideologies and social interpretations and his commentary and ideas on the life of downtrodden proletariat class of then industrializing cities of England and Europe. The condition of the Working Class in England, one of the earliest masterpieces of Urban Socio-Politics; is a book documented by Engels on the social agony and horrors of working class during his 1842-44 stay in Manchester, which argued Industrial Revolution makes workers worse off. His writing was eye opening for readers and it also triggered the quest of Social Equality, which later inspired Engels himself as well as Social Investigations and studies for secluded class of the city by intellectuals and organizations like Stephen Wheeler, Timothy Beatley and World Commission on Environment and Development and entire tradition of Twentieth century urban planning, capitalists and socialists alike.

Poor living condition


Engels penned his personal experiences during walking around the different corners of the city of Manchester, the tour transcends deeper and deeper into the misery, disgust, filth, despair and pessimism in the congested and downtrodden streets of proletariat residential districts that constitute greater part of Manchester Conurbation. He mentions about the poor living condition of the Urban Dwellings which were densely populated and over occupied, a small room was sometimes shelter for more than 8 people. Widespread spatial arrangements of the spatial segregation of urban industrialism, Engels observed that factory owners and middle class people were unaware of horrors that lie beyond the fancy facades of main thoroughfares which masks the slums. Working conditions were hardly good for daily labourers who were highly relied on the favours of Bourgeoisie to enrich himself through means of him, but wages were not suffice to keep body and soul together.

Industrial Work

The working people quarters were separated from the sections of the city reserved for Middle Class, irregular juxtaposition of dwellings in ways which defies all rational planning sense. Such areas were obscure and masked by the areas and places resided by aristocracy, such areas were developed along the neglected spaces often filthier than can be imagined surrounded by foul smelling stream of coal black water discharged from the Industrial quarters housing tanneries, bonemills and gasworks. The obscured streets lead into knotted chaos of one storeyed neighbourhoods, more or less on the verge of uninhabitableness; which were mostly one storied huts having no artificial floor; kitchen, living room and sleeping all in one as this is the case with contemporary Industrial and Primate cities of India. Insanitary conditions were not only fatal as was the case with repeated visitations of cholera, typhus, small-pox and other epidemics. Privies were rare or either filled up every day, and ablution and hand washing were practically impossible as water pipes and pumps were only in decent parts of the city.

Train Network

To sum up working man of Manchester during 1840s even the best of them, was vulnerable to loss of work and starvation for food; their dwellings were in worse condition, poorly ventilated, damp and unwholesome; Interiors were deprived of even the basic necessities and streets were home for wandering pigs, a breeding place for diseases.

Author Bio: Nishant Sharma is an Architect and currently pursuing master’s in city Planning from IIT Kharagpur. He is interested in the variety of topics like Sustainable Built Structures, Energy Efficient Structures, Practices and Planning, Transportation Planning, Equity-based Resource Planning and Energy and Natural Resources to sum up broadly. Besides academics, Nishant is interested in adventure sports like trekking, hiking, mountain climbing, camping and cycling.

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