Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the world’s pre-eminent and most widely-respected Marxist historian, has died this morning, after suffering from pneumonia. He was 95 years old.
As the last remaining member of Britain’s once influential circle of Marxist historians, which included the likes of the late E. P. Thompson and Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm towered over his peers in both his prolificness and his longevity. The author of more than 20 books, including a celebrated three-volume series on the “long 19th century” from the French revolution to the first world war, his life spanned almost the entire breadth of a century – one that witnessed the fall of Tsarism, the Bolshevik Revolution, two world wars, the dismantling of the Soviet Union and unparalleled economic, social and technological change.
His own, often controversial, adherence to the communist party, from his joining in 1936 to its collapse and effective dissolution in 1989, does nothing to detract from a critically engaged body of work that continued to grow long after the demise of official communism and after his own retirement. His last book, currently in the proofing stages, is scheduled for release some time in 2013.
The long shadow Eric Hobsbawm casts over academic reading lists the world over is perhaps unique in its illuminating, rather than obfuscatory quality. In his death this is unlikely to change. Though the world is poorer for the loss of this man, the fruits of his lifetime’s work remain, thankfully, in print.
In 2010 Pluto published a book by Gregory Elliott, Hobsbawm: History and Politics, which looked at the life and work of this most remarkable of historians, and the intellectual and political journey his life represented. For anyone interested in learning more about Hobsbawm himself, we wholeheartedly recommend Elliott’s book.
History and Politics
An analysis of 20th century historian Eric Hobsbawn, assessing his scholarly record and the intellectual and political journey his life represents.
“The remarkable and prolific works of Eric Hobsbawm have gone too long without a serious critical analysis which treats them as an evolving whole. In a closely argued and highly readable account, Gregory Elliott sets out to fill this gap. … a revealing exploration. “ – Justin Rosenberg, Reader in International Relations, University of Sussex
“Shrewdly and eruditely, guided by critical sympathy, Gregory Elliott provides an informative and insightful accounting of Hobsbawm and the politics he tried to uphold.” – Geoff Eley, Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History, Department of History, University of Michigan