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The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels

The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels [Kindle Edition]

Tristram Hunt
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Beautifully written and consistently engaging (Independent )

An excellent book ... Hunt has a mastery of 19th-century British culture and European political thought (Robert Service Sunday Times )

Thoughtful and engaging (Telegraph Review )

Product Description

Friedrich Engels is one of the most attractive and contradictory figures of the nineteenth century. Born to a prosperous mercantile family in west Germany, he spent his career working in the Manchester cotton industry, riding to the Cheshire hounds, and enjoying the comfortable, middle-class life of a Victorian gentleman. Yet Engels was also the co-founder of international communism - the philosophy which in the 20th century came to control one third of the human race. He was the co-author of The Communist Manifesto, a ruthless party tactician, and the man who sacrificed his best years so Karl Marx could write Das Kapital. Tristram Hunt relishes the diversity and exuberance of Engels's era: how one of the great bon viveurs of Victorian Britain reconciled his raucous personal life with this uncompromising political philosophy. Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Europe and industrializing England - of Manchester mills, Paris barricades, and East End strikes - it is a story of devoted friendship, class compromise, ideological struggle, and family betrayal.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 9987 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9X9M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #117,357 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This is a fine, readable biography of Friedrich Engels in a similar vein to Francis Wheens Karl Marx but not such a virtuso performance. It more than competently covers Engels rich and varied life, anchoring it in the context of his times, as he journeys from his birth place in Germany to exile in London with more than a few points in between. The tone of the book is generally sound, and not infrequently quite funny - as is Engels. . . and Marx for that matter. There is an element of finger wagging on Hunts part about some of Engels real or alleged misdemeanours, but I rather think M.A. Krul in his above (or below?) review is being rather too sensitive in regarding this as "hostility" towards Engels on Tristram Hunts part.

The philosophical roots and theory of Marxism are clearly explained for those of us, like myself, who are a little light on the nitty gritty of Marxist theory. Developments in Engels wide intellectual interests are giving room as well as his copious writings on issues as diverse as Communism, Science, Feminism, Family and Warfare. His relationship with Marx recieves ample coverage and it is evident from this, and other books Ive read, that they got on like a house on fire: writing to each another daily and when they were both in London they visited each other daily aswell (and this despite Marxs perpetual cadging!). When Marx died Engels looked after his intellectual, aswell as his biological, offspring.

I was sorry that the book had to end which is always a good sign, and while there are a few quibbling problems with the book (which could have done with being polished up a little) I wouldnt hesitate to reccommend it to anyone whether or not they are ideologically committed, or even sympathetic, to Socialism.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Tristram Hunt's biography of the great man nicknamed 'The General', the Communist hero Friedrich Engels, is timely in light of the slow revival of Marxism as a consequence of the failure of neoliberalism and the current financial crisis. That is not to say that this is the first English-language biography; besides the old standard biography by Gustav Mayer (Friedrich Engels) there is the excellent short(er) biography by J.D. Hunley (Friedrich Engels: A Reinterpretation of His Life and Thought), in addition to several others.

Hunt's book is of the more contemporary biographies however the most informative one. His command of sources is excellent, and he uses not just the by now familiar memoirs and the manuscripts from that time, but also makes great use of third party sources that are not directly about Engels but which shed a greater light on certain circumstances he lived in or people he knew. Hunt is also very good on providing a general historical background; in particular his descriptions of the shades of German romanticism and their influence as well as the Manchester environment of Engels as factory manager are very well done. These are not likely to be surpassed in English soon. Overall, Hunt's work is fairly balanced with regard to the different aspects and periods of Engels' life, with the interesting observation that unlike almost all prior biographers, he focuses in particular on Engels' private life and activities as industrialist, rather than on the political activities and theory.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very well written, entertaining and straightforward book about Engels; his domestic life, his relationship with Marx and the philosophical basis of their works.
The author, Hunt, charts the early life of Engels in the Rhineland manufacturing town of Barmen and his privileged beginnings as the son of a wealthy mill owner. Engels rejected his early Romanticism and lost his Christian faith as he took in the conditions around him and studied the revolutionary changes that had taken place in Europe, particularly the French revolution and the progress of the industrial revolution in England. During his time at Berlin University Engels became a committed adherent of the fashionable Hegelian philosophy being taught at the time and this was to profoundly effect the work of Engels and Marx. Hunt makes a good job of explaining the philosophy of Hegel. In a line; Hegel proposed the inevitable development in society of the 'spirit' or self-conscious reason, the only true reality, and that the idea of freedom constituted the final goal of that 'spirit'. Whereas teachers of the time thought that 'final state' had been achieved in Germany, Engels and Marx reasoned that capitalism with its use of employed labour meant that could not be the case. In practical or 'material' terms employed people were not free and further social development must yet take place.
Hunt goes on to describe Engels' move to Manchester as an employee of his father's firm, his observations of the effects of advanced industrialisation and the publication of many articles expressing his political views. It was at this time that Engels wrote his classic, "The Condition of the Working Class in England" when he was just 24 and which was published the following year in 1845 in Leipzig.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Second fiddle perhaps, but an essential player
This is an attractive biography of Friedrich Engels. If his life is less well known than that of Marx, Engels would not complain - over and over, from his first meeting with Marx... Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2012 by Ralph Blumenau
5.0 out of 5 stars A good insight into a neglected historical Titan
Engels is perhaps one of the most underrated figures in history and yet his influence was seismic. Marx, of course, took centre stage for the ideology that bears his name, but it... Read more
Published on 13 April 2012 by LXIX
5.0 out of 5 stars Written with Feeling
Not very often do I read a book that I am reticent to put down. This is such a book. Hunt writes with clarity clearly drawn from in depth research that is a joy to examine. Read more
Published on 22 July 2011 by G. Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars A secret Life
This biography of Engels doesn't have the panache of a writer such as Francis Wheen (biographer of Marx). Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2011 by DN PERKS
4.0 out of 5 stars The Frock Coated Communist
A highly readable book which is the autobiography of the champagne socialist who subsidised Karl Marx. Read more
Published on 30 May 2010 by B. Griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars great book - very interesting
This is a very well written and researched book - cannot recommend it highly enough. Buy it for yourself or as a present - you won't be disappointed!
Published on 6 Jan 2010 by A. Zogolovitch
4.0 out of 5 stars Too much communism, not quite enough frockcoat
A well reseached, accessibly written biography of Marx's cofidante and collaborator, which combines social and socialist history with personal biography. Read more
Published on 10 Oct 2009 by Dr Burgess
3.0 out of 5 stars too many snide remarks
Young historian obviously going places,TV broadcaster, regular articles in the Guardian and Murdoch's The Times has produced a well researched and sometimes amusing biography of... Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2009 by redbigbill
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for the general reader
An excellent introduction to Engels, Marx, their philosophies and their immediate historical context for those who might feel a little intimidated by a detailed examination of the... Read more
Published on 2 July 2009 by G. L. Haggett
4.0 out of 5 stars The Frock-Coated Communist The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels
The Frock-Coated Communist The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels
Tristam Hunt

It is not possible to overestimate the social and political impact Friedrich... Read more
Published on 28 Jun 2009 by T. Jones
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