In the 1850s the USA was still regarded by European radicals as 'The Land of the Free'. The left had yet to learn that America's concept of freedom was to be a world away from theirs. In these articles Marx is able to appeal to his American readers by reminding them of the iniquities of the Old World they had left behind; a world where inherited privilege and the clergy still held sway.
Only occasionally does Marx's tiresome, and now thoroughly discredited, historicism intrude. We get instead, a picture of the way that 19th century technology, with its railroads, steamships and the telegraph was making the world smaller. New global ties were breaking down the old bonds of feudalism and family.
Marx was not an on the spot reporter; he was based in London. His reflections on the disgrace that was the Chinese Opium War, the tragedy of the Highland Clearances and the misery that brought about industrial unrest in Lancashire are filled with passion and anger as well as sober, if contorted, reflection.
One piece on China shows how vastly that vast land has changed in the ensuing 150 years. The brutal, and futile, attempts of the British to open up Chinese markets to Lancashire's textiles are shown to be not only barbaric, but ridiculous. The Chinese clothed themselves quite adequately, Marx averred, by virtue of their home looms and spinning wheels, so had no need to import any cotton.
That the world has changed vastly, and not remotely in the manner that Marx so confidently predicted, takes nothing away from the lively style of the writing, and the insights these articles provide into a vanished age.