Eric Hobsbawm died this morning in hospital. He was a truly great Marxist historian and leading intellectual. Whilst he will surely be sadly missed, the legacy of his works will remain a beacon of Enlightenment values for all.
Eric Hobsbawm was born in Egypt in 1917 to Jewish parents. As a child, he lived in Austria and subsequently Berlin, before moving to England to flee the rise of the Nazi party. After being awarded his doctorate by Cambridge University, he was appointed Lecturer by Birkbeck College in 1947 and published his first of thirty books the following year. He was, as BBC News reports, to spend his entire career on the faculty.
His best known works are probably his three volume history of the "long nineteenth century", which the Observer famously described as part of the "mental furniture of all educated Englishmen". And the praise was by no means hyperbolic, for in these three volumes, Hobsbawm described and explained the forces that have shaped the contemporary world: a stunning achievement by any standards.
Whilst Hobsbawm demonstrated a masterly grasp of world history, he could also, in works such as his dazzling monograph, Bandits, show a detailed knowledge and understanding of obscure and little known areas of modern history. As the New Statesman quotes Tony Judt:
Hobsbawm doesn’t just know more than other historians. He writes better, too.
And indeed, his command of English prose was more than sufficient to justify his appointment in 2006 as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
As the Daily Telegraph reports, in a sentiment that will be shared by countless others, his daughter, Julia Hobsbawm, said:
He will be greatly missed not just by his wife of 50 years, Marlene, and his three children, seven grandchildren and great grandchild, but also by his many thousands of readers and students around the world.
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