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Karl Marx and Frederick Engels : the Irish dimension

Hazelkorn, E (1980) Karl Marx and Frederick Engels : the Irish dimension. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86012) (KAR id:86012)


Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote upwards of fifty books and articles, and many letters concerning economic and political developments in Ireland after the Great Famine of 1845-49. For the most part, these writings have been ignored, in preference for attention to their more famous economic and philosophical works. In contrast, this study seeks to set the record straight; examining in detail their appraisal of the relationship between Irish nationalism and English socialism, the thesis finds that Marx and Engels' concern was primarily focused in the direction of the latter. Support for Irish self-determination was significant principally in adding to their re-evaluation of Chartism, the English labour movement, and the potential for socialist revolution generally. Moreover, they were not enthusiastic defenders of the Fenians, but quietly sheltered various misgivings concerning their actions, and limited political horizon and effectiveness, which came to light in their applause for Charles S wait Parnell by mid-1870. The thesis seeks to place Marx and Engels' support for Irish independence within a framework of capitalist development as sketched by Karl Marx in Capital. Therein, he discussed the effects of capitalist accumulation upon Ireland, pronouncing that the particular mode of production was responsible for the manner in which English industry reciprocated Irish agriculture. It is claimed in the thesis that Marx's development of the mechanism of capitalist accumulation is an invaluable analysis of that relationship. Nevertheless, one cannot read through Marx and Engels' varied writings without being aware of the many inconsistencies and omissions that abound. Their general ignorance of industrial growth, particularly in Belfast, of great opposition to Home Rule, and of the conservative strength of the tenantry movement are among the most obvious of these. The thesis continually draws attention to these problems, citing data on political and economic developments of the time as evidence of the drawbacks to their analysis. This method purports to consider how well Marx and Engels understood the Irish question. On the other hand, some of their inaccuracies, especially Engels' almost emotional attention to communal, pre-English Ireland, compares favourably with contemporary opinion. In conclusion, then, the thesis ends by glancing at how Marx and Engels' ideas compared with their contemporaries, suggesting that in many ways, they were trapped in their historical time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86012
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Philosophy
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:24 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 11:01 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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