Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in the German province of Prussia. Marx graduated from a high school in his hometown, Trier, and went on to universities in Bonn and Berlin. Like his father, who was a lawyer, he studied law, history, and philosophy. He graduated in 1841 after completing a doctoral thesis on the philosophy of Epicurus. During his education in Berlin, Marx was drawn to a group of "Left Hegelians" who used Hegel's idealist views to develop theories of revolution and atheism.
After graduating, Marx moved to Bonn in hopes of becoming a professor. However, Marx was invited to be a contributor to a paper in opposition to the Prussian government, and he instead moved to Cologne. He became editor-in-chief of the Rheinische Zeitung in 1824. Under Marx the paper became more revolutionary and provocative, and the government continued to censor the paper until 1843, when it was completely repressed. Marx was forced to resign, and all publication was ended in March 1843. Intrigued by the political economy included in his paper, Marx set out to make himself an expert in the field.
In 1843 Marx was married to Jenny von Westphalena, a childhood friend from an aristocratic family to whom he had been engaged since college. In the autumn of 1843, Marx went to Paris where he participated in another radical journal. In September 1844, Frederick Engels came to Paris where he and Marx set off on their famous friendship. They wrote their first Marxist work, The German Ideology, where they first set down their materialistic conception of history. During the next few years, Marx and Engels actively participated in the many revolutionary groups in Paris, during which time Marx wrote his Poverty of Philosophy.
In 1845 Marx was exiled from Paris at the insistence of the Prussian government, at which time he moved to Brussels. In 1847 Marx and Engels joined the Communist League secret society, at whose request they wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848. The brief tract outlined the theory of class struggle, the tasks of the Communist party, and the revolutionary role of the proletariat. Although little noted at the time, The Communist Manifesto would became one of the best-known works of the nineteenth century.
Marx was subsequently exiled from Belgium after their 1848 revolution and moved first to Paris, then to Cologne, Germany. Counter-revolutionary forces in Germany succeeded in bringing up court charges against Marx in May 1849, and had him exiled from Germany in June 1849. He then moved again to Paris, then to London, where he spent the rest of his life.
During his political exile, Marx was in poverty. Without the financial help of Engels, Marx and his family could hardly have survived. Marx's health began to deteriorate during the strenous process of finishing Captial, for which he learned Russian. His poor health kept him from finishing the last two volumes of Capital, which were later pieced together by Engels. This influential work established the economic theory known as Marxism.
Marx's wife died in December 1881, and Marx passed away peacefully in March 1883. He is buried next to his wife at the Highgate Cemetary in London.
Encyclopedia of Marxism.