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18 June 2014
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Hall of Science
Manchester's Hall of Science
Engels in Manchester

Illustration from Engel's 'The Condition of the Working-Class in England'
Illustration from Engel's 'The Condition of the Working-Class in England'
© Working Class Movement Library
During his first visit, Engels attended the Hall of Science, which was only five minutes from Ermine and Engels office. At weekends upwards of 3,000 people would attend lectures here on English social and political matters. It was a hot bed of radical activity. Chartists and socialists would meet there, to exchange ideas and circulate literature. Here he met Owenite socialists, the secularist John Watts, as well as leading Chartists such as James Leach and Julian Harney. He visited West Yorkshire and learned more about conditions in the factories from his compatriot George Werth in Bradford and met with Julian Harney the editor of the Leeds based Chartist newspaper The Northern Star.

Engels was deeply influenced by his first stay in Manchester. The social and political struggles taking place impressed him. Manchester was a focal point of the Chartists movement, the developing trade unions and cooperative societies, as it was for the factory agitations such as the campaigns to end child labour and to introduce a ten-hour day. He noted how politically active and well read a great number of the Manchester working class were.

His first visit to Manchester cemented his economic, social and political views. He now fully recognised the power that economic conditions played in the modern world, how these economic conditions led to class antagonism and that this antagonism gave rise to political parties and movements that represented these class interests. Engels left Manchester in 1844 and set about writing ’The condition of the working class in England’. This was published, in German, in 1845. It would be 50 years before an English translation would be available.

Words: Danny Crosby

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