Eric Hobsbawm dies, aged 95

Eric Hobsbawm, one of the most readable and wide-ranging historians of his generation, has died, his family have announced.

October 1, 2012

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1917, Professor Hobsbawm grew up in Vienna and Berlin before escaping to England when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933.

He spent much of his career at Birkbeck, University of London, which he joined as a lecturer in 1947. He was president and professor emeritus of history at Birkbeck at the time of his death, and was also a Companion of Honour and a Fellow of the British Academy.

A life-long Marxist who remained in the Communist Party far longer than most of his fellow academic Marxists, Professor Hobsbawm was an often controversial figure, not least when his autobiography, Interesting Times: A twentieth-century life, was published in 2002. He also claimed that his well-known political views had held back his career and deprived him of a position at Cambridge.

Yet generations of lecturers of all political persuasions have been glad to recommend to their students his quartet of books surveying European and wider history from the French Revolution until today: The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848, The Age of Capital: 1848-1875, The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 and The Age of Extremes: the short 20th century, 1914-1991. All are notable for the range of languages and sources they draw upon and their narrative flair.

Professor Hobsbawm also wrote acclaimed books about jazz, one of his life-long passions, as well as co-editing a celebrated collection on The Invention of Tradition, which explored how many national myths, often believed to have origins in the mists of time, were actually invented in the far more recent past.

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