Biography of Karl Marx
15Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 to Heinrich and Henrietta Marx in the historical city of Trier. Karl was one of seven children raised within a comfortable middle class home provided by his father. Marx’s father worked as a counselor-at-law at the High-Court of Appeal in Trier. David McClellan believes that, “Trier first imbued Marx with his abiding passion for history.”1 Although the Marx family was linked to a long lineage of Jewish ancestry, Heinrich converted his family to Protestantism in order to keep his position at the courthouse. “Some have considered this rabbinic ancestry to be the key to Marx’s ideas and see him as a secularized version of an Old Testament prophet.”2 Overall, Marx was raised in a very loving, supportive, environment, and maintained a special relationship with his father throughout his life.3
In 1830, Marx began school at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium, a Jesuit foundation that had become a respectable high school with a liberal headmaster. While in high school, Marx was known as a bully and acted more as a leader to the students than as a close friend. His marks were less than average in history related subjects, French, and mathematics. Marx, however, did earn excellent marks in Greek, Latin, and German.4
In 1835, Marx graduated from high school and fell in love with Jenny von Westphalen the daughter of a powerful politician. The couple was secretly engaged in the summer of 1836, but, because of their conflicting ancestries, their families would not allow the wedding to commence for seven years.5
After the couples engagement, Marx was enrolled into the University of Bonn on October 17,1835 as a student of jurisprudence. While in college, Marx spent much more time and energy focusing on his academics. Even in college, Karl and his father maintained a very close relationship. This relationship can be seen through this letter written by Marx’s father in November of 1835:
I wish to see you in you what I might have become, had I first seen the light of day under move favorable auspices…it may be unjust and ill-advised as well to put one’s greatest hopes in a single person and thus perhaps undermine one’s own equanimity.6
However, Marx took up drinking and found himself in a bar fight which resulted in his transfer to the University of Berlin .7 At Berlin, Marx studied law, philosophy, and history until the death of his father in October of 1836. After his father’s death, Marx abandoned law and focused his studies mainly on philosophy. He then became an atheist, a democrat, and a critic of the Prussian government.8
In 1841, Karl Marx successfully submitted his doctoral thesis on the philosophy of Epicurus and Democritus to the University of Jena . The following year, he began working for a liberal newspaper called the Rheinische Zeitung, and was finally allowed to...