Karl Marx: Biographical Sketch and Timeline

Life Timeline of Karl Marx

1818: Karl Marx is born on May 5th in Trier, Rhineland, Prussia, to a family of rabbis. His father, Heinrich Marx, later converts to Protestantism.
1835: Marx enrolls at the University of Bonn to study law, but his interests soon shift towards philosophy and literature.
1836: Marx joins the Poets' Club at the University of Bonn, where he interacts with political radicals.
1838: Marx transfers to the University of Berlin to study law, theology, and philosophy. He becomes associated with the Young Hegelians and the Doctor Club.
1841: Marx completes his doctoral thesis on the difference between the materialism of Democritus and Epicurus, earning his PhD from the University of Jena due to controversy over its explicit atheism.
1842: Marx becomes the editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal newspaper based in Cologne. He criticizes both the conservative Prussian government and socialist movements that he believes fail to grasp the necessary practical struggle for revolution.
1843: Marx moves to Paris and engages in radical activities in support of socialism. He begins studying political economy and further explores the critique of religion.
1844: Marx co-edits the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, publishing two influential works: "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" and "On the Jewish Question." He develops his theories on historical materialism and the critique of political economy.
1845: Marx meets Friedrich Engels, who becomes his lifelong collaborator. Together, they write "The Holy Family." Marx is expelled from France and settles in Brussels.
1847: Marx and Engels transform the League of the Just into the Communist League. They write the Communist Manifesto, which outlines the goals and principles of communism.
1848: The February Revolution breaks out in France, followed by a series of uprisings across Europe. Marx publishes "The Class Struggles in France" and plays an active role in revolutionary movements.
1849: Marx is expelled from Belgium and relocates to London. He continues writing for various publications and engages in political activities.
1859: Marx publishes the preface to "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy," where he outlines his materialist conception of history and criticizes capitalism.
1864: Marx becomes involved with the International Workingmen's Association (First International) and is elected to the General Council. He defends his understanding of socialism against dissenting voices, including Mikhail Bakunin.
1867: The first volume of Marx's seminal work, "Das Kapital," is published. It analyzes the capitalist mode of production and its inherent contradictions.
1871: Marx publishes "The Civil War in France," analyzing the Paris Commune as a proletarian revolution.
1875: Marx's work on the Critique of the Gotha Program is published. It criticizes the German Social Democratic Party and discusses the transition from capitalism to socialism.
1883: On March 14th, Karl Marx passes away in London at the age of 64. He is buried at Highgate Cemetery.

Throughout his life, Marx made significant contributions to philosophy, economics, and political theory, shaping the development of socialist and communist movements worldwide. His ideas continue to influence intellectual and political discourse to this day.


Karl Marx, a prominent political philosopher of the 19th and 20th centuries, holds a significant place among influential thinkers. His ideas gave rise to a broad intellectual and cultural movement known as Marxism, as well as a global political organization called communism. Both Marxism and communism propagated concepts such as class struggle, historical materialism, and the inherent contradictions of industrial capitalism, following Marx's lead. Consequently, his ideas have gained widespread recognition, and his works are widely available, although some of his earlier, more philosophical writings have occasionally been suppressed by Communist publishers due to their less dogmatic nature compared to his later economic works.

Born in 1818 in Trier, a part of Prussia's Rhineland region, Marx hailed from a family of rabbis. However, his father, a lawyer with liberal views, abandoned Judaism and converted to Protestantism for social reasons. Marx briefly attended the University of Bonn before pursuing studies in law, theology, and philosophy at the University of Berlin. During his time at Bonn, he was part of the Poets' Club, which included many political radicals. In Berlin, Marx joined the Doctor Club and associated with the Young Hegelians, whose ideas he later adapted for his teachings on historical materialism. While in college, Marx also wrote fiction, poetry, and love poems to his girlfriend Jenny von Westphalen. Jenny and Karl's relationship began in childhood, continued through their teenage years, and eventually led to marriage, with the couple raising seven children and living together until old age.

Marx completed his doctoral thesis on the distinction between the materialism of Democritus and Epicurus under the guidance of Bruno Bauer, a heterodox Hegelian. Due to its explicit atheism and direct criticisms of theology, the thesis stirred controversy at the University of Berlin. Consequently, Marx had to submit it to the more liberal University of Jena, which awarded him his PhD in 1841. In Berlin, Marx took on the role of editor for the short-lived Rheinische Zeitung, where he not only criticized the conservative Prussian government but also socialists whom he believed failed to grasp the necessity of practical struggle for revolution and the insufficiency and potentially counterproductive nature of incremental political reforms. Marx demonstrated his lifelong intellectual and political approach here, wherein he engaged in political disputes not solely to refute opponents but also to denounce them, presenting his own teachings as a necessary and obvious reality to anyone without ulterior motives.

After the closure of the Rheinische Zeitung, Marx relocated to Paris, where he continued his radical activities in support of socialism and delved deeper into the study of political economy. He also further explored the Young Hegelian critique of religion. Marx's thought during this period can be roughly characterized as a synthesis of three main themes: socialism, political economy, and the critique of religion. It was during this time that Marx co-edited the single issue of the radical publication Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, founded by German socialist Arnold Ruge. In this publication, Marx released two of his most significant works, "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" and "On the Jewish Question." These works marked the initial application of Hegelian dialectic logic to economic relations and the adaptation of the critique of religion provided by the Young Hegelians, laying the groundwork for his later comprehensive critique of political economy in "Das Kapital" and the development of "scientific socialism." In 1844, Marx also published a German-language utopian socialist newspaper called Vorwärts! and wrote his "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts," seeking to justify his evolving economic theories within a Hegelian framework.

During this period, Marx met Friedrich Engels, author of "The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844," and the two would become lifelong collaborators. Together, they wrote "The Holy Family." In 1845, Marx penned the concise "Theses on Feuerbach," which argued that in order for humanity to achieve wholeness and avoid an alienated existence, it was necessary to change the material conditions that caused such alienation. Marx succinctly expressed the role of the philosopher as enlightening the world through transformative action.

In 1845, Marx was expelled from France and sought refuge in Brussels, where he, alongside Engels, began writing "The German Ideology." During his time in Brussels, Marx played a key role in transforming the League of the Just, a group he was associated with, into a political organization known as the Communist League. The Communist Manifesto, which outlined a program of action for the league, was a product of this period. Marx envisioned a swift transition from capitalism to socialism and dedicated substantial effort over the next two years to hasten this process. Following his expulsion from Brussels, he moved to Paris and then Cologne, where he established and managed the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Marx eventually sought refuge in London, where he lived in relative poverty for the remainder of his life. However, he found employment as a correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune. Marx frequently wrote about the American slavery crisis, drawing parallels between slaves and the industrial proletariat. In London, Marx wrote the first volume of "Das Kapital" and made extensive notes for the three subsequent volumes, which were later published by Engels. In 1864, Marx became involved with the International Workingmen's Association, later known as the First International. He was elected to the General Council and successfully defended his understanding of socialism against dissenting voices like Mikhail Bakunin. The First International disbanded in 1876, and following Marx's death in 1883, there was no universally recognized intellectual leader of the worldwide socialist movement. Most socialist thinkers positioned themselves in relation to Marx's ideas, and competition for the role of chief dogmatist and interpreter of events ensued.

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