This modern Penguin Books edition of Engels' classic work is a must read. My only regret is that I had not read it years ago. Engels begins with an encyclopedic knowledge of antiquity, quoting from such classics as Grote's 'History of Greece' (12 vols), Mommsen's 'History of Rome' (5 vols), and Lewis Morgan's 'Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, through Barbarism to Civilization' (now available from Amazon). Into this "supersaturated solution" of received knowledge he dips his thematic string "the origin of the family" and draws it out encrusted with crystals of known but here-to-fore unrelated information. As a long-time university teacher of ancient history I was thoroughly familar with Engels' database but had never mined it for this particular theme. Most of modern anthropology has arisen long after Engels completed the fourth edition of this work in 1891, so he may be criticized for errors in detail and even method, but his overall message is still relevant and very important for civilization today! Born in Germany, Fredrich Engels was very well educated and seems to have been a reader of Latin and Greek, and fluent in German, French, and Russian as well as a skilled writer of English. A well-turned, if somewhat polemical example: "The downfall of Athens was not caused by democracy as the European lickspittle historians assert to flatter their princes, but by slavery, which banned the labour of free citizens." Throughout the book Engels is highly complimentary of the United States as the highest form of representative democracy in his time. But he does offer a criticism which is hard to gainsay, especially since 2008: "...the democratic republic no longer officially recognizes differences of property. Wealth here employs its power indirectly, but all the more surely. It does this in two ways: by plain corruption of officials, of which America is the classic example; and by an alliance between the government and the stock exchange, which is effected all the more easily the higher the state debt mounts ..."
Prof. Peter C. Patton, Ph.D.