As the nineteenth century unfolded, its inhabitants had to come to terms with an unparalleled range of economic, political, religious and intellectual challenges. Distances shrank, new towns sprang up and new inventions transformed the industrial landscape. In the shocked aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo, a European-wide argument began which has in many ways continued ever since about the industrial transformation in England, the Revolution in France and the hopes and fears generated by these events.One of the most distinctive and arresting contributions to this debate was made by Karl Marx, the son of a Jewish convert in the Rhineland and a man whose entire life was devoted to making sense of the puzzles and paradoxes of the nineteenth century world. It was an era dominated by new ideas many of which we now take for granted about God, human capacities, empires and political systems - and above all, the shape of the future. In a world where so many things were changing so fast, would the coming age belong to those enthralled by the revolutionary events and ideas which had brought this world into being, or to those who feared and loathed it.