The Brave New World: Tristram Hunt On Marx and Engels’ Revolutionary Vision

Tristram Hunt

A German social scientist, political activist and philosopher, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) was, along with Karl Marx (1818-1883), the father of Communist theory. He was instrumental in writing of the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, two of the world's most influential political manuscripts.

Tristram Hunt is a lecturer in history at the University of London. The author of Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City and most recently, Marx's General—The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, he writes political and cultural commentary for The Guardian, The Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications.

Q: In your new book, Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, you attempt to bring Engels, who long played Horatio to Marx's Hamlet, out from under Marx's shadow. Why do you suppose there has been a dearth of books on Engels?

A: Not a 'dearth', but certainly not merely as many as there might have been. The last major biography of the man was, I think, by Gustav Mayer in the 1930s. For much of the post-war era—especially in the West—he was regarded with both suspicion and hostility as the ideological architect of Soviet-style Communism. And even with the revival of Marx's stock over the last 15 years, Engels himself has still lagged behind in public recognition or critical engagement. Hopefully, this book is a small step in counter-balancing that bias.

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