Eric Hobsbawm – England

Linked with A question of faith, and with Old order changeth.

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm CH (born June 9, 1917 in Alexandria, Egypt) is a British Marxist historian and author. Hobsbawm was a long-standing member of the now defunct Communist Party of Great Britain and the associated Communist Party Historians Group. He is president of Birkbeck, University of London.

One of Hobsbawm’s interests is the development of traditions. His work is a study of their construction in the context of the nation state. He argues that many traditions are invented by national elites to justify the existence and importance of their respective nation states. (full text).

He says:

  • about History: ‘History is being invented in vast quantities … it’s more important to have historians, especially sceptical historians than ever before.’
  • about Communism: ‘I was a loyal Communist Party member for two decades before 1956 and therefore silent about a number of things about which it’s reasonable not to be silent.’
  • avout Blair: ‘Labour Prime Ministers who glory in trying to be warlords – subordinate warlords particularly – certainly stick in my gullet.’ (Guardian).

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Eric Hobsbawm – England

He says also: “I look back in amazement rather than regret, that not only I but humanity have made it through the past hundred-odd years”. (full text).

Google Scholar – All articles.

Man of the extreme century: Eric Hobsbawm is one of Britain’s greatest historians .The events of the twentieth century are as much components of his life as subjects of his books. In this wide-ranging conversation with Tristram Hunt, one of Britain ’s new generation of historians, he reveals how he continues to believe in a spirit of progress as the surest route for happiness. (full text).

His weekly comments on the Guardian.

… But the difference should not be exaggerated and nor should it be misunderstood. It is easier to be statesmanlike after a failed attack than after a successful one. It may be true, as Eric Hobsbawm pointed out on the radio this week, that advanced modern states can absorb the kind of attacks meted out by terrorist groups fairly comfortably; but it remains true that the pressures on political leaders after an actual atrocity are more severe than when no one has been killed. It is also true that the potential carnage and collective impact of the alleged conspiracy against airline passengers that was apparently foiled last summer was arguably far greater than those that would have resulted if last weekend’s car bombs had detonated. Not to recognise this is to equate apples with pears … (full text).


Eric Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria and grew up in Vienna and Berlin in the l930s. He read history at Cambridge and since 1947 has taught at Birkbeck College, University of London where he is now Emeritus Professor, as well as holding visiting fellowships at universities around the world. He has seventeen honorary doctorates and many other awards and honours.
He has written on the Long Nineteenth Century and the twentieth century (THE AGE OF EXTREMES which has been translated into thirty six languages). He has also written a volume of memoirs, INTERESTING TIMES. (full text).

He writes: … First, I was fascinated by the problems of synthesis. As I wrote later I wanted “to see the past as a coherent whole rather than (as historical specialization so often forces us to see it) as an assembly of separate topics: the history of different states, of politics, of the economy, of culture or whatever…I have always wanted to know how all these aspects of past (or present) life hang together, and why.” (The Age of Empire, Preface). Second, I was both intellectually critical of the history that focussed on the well-born, the powerful and prominent and emotionally drawn to the common people, whom it neglected. But third, and most immediately, I found myself fascinated by the essential predicament of human beings in periods of social upheaval: how, having been formed by one society’s past, to cope with the problems of living in another … (full long text).

About Eric Hobsbawm and his books:

And he says: … The worrying thing at the moment is that history – including tradition – is being invented in vast quantities. In the past 30 years there’s been an explosion of heritage sites and historical museums. On top of this, particularly since the end of communism, there’s been the foundation of new states which need to invent histories to show how important they are. And the way you do this is that you invent or collect yourself a past. The extreme example of this is in Croatia where the man who actually created the new state, Franjo Tudjman, was a professional historian who invented a phoney tradition. So, the world is today full of people inventing histories and lying about history and that’s largely because the people who do this are not actually interested in the past. What they are interested in is something which will make the punters feel good. At present it’s more important to have historians, especially sceptical historians, than ever before. (full long interview).

Eric John Blair Hobsbawm CH (* 9. Juni 1917 in Alexandria, Ägypten) ist ein englischer Historiker und Sozialwissenschaftler mit nglisch- österreichisch- jüdischen Wurzeln. Als langjähriges ehemaliges Mitglied der britischen KP und Vordenker ihres eurokommunistischen Flügels, gilt er als scharfer Beobachter und vom Marxismus beeinflusster, aber dennoch undogmatischer Kritiker des Kapitalismus. (full text).

His publications: on wikipedia; on amazon; on Orionbooks.

Lista de publicaciones.

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm (nació el 9 de Junio de 1917 en Alejandría, Egipto) es un historiador marxista británico. Hobsbawm fue un miembro duradero del ahora extinto Partido Comunista de Gran Bretaña y asociado al Grupo de Historiadores del Partido Comunista. Uno de los intereses de Hobsbawm es el desarrollo de las tradiciones. Su trabajo es un estudio de su construcción en el contexto del estado nación. Él argumenta que muchas tradiciones son inventadas por élites nacionales para justificar la existencia e importancia de sus respectivas naciones. (full text).


Eric Hobsbawm: lying to the credulous, by David Pryce-Jones, January 2003;

Eric Hobsbawm Speaks on His New Memoir;

Eric Hobsbawm, Marxist historian;

The lion of the Left.

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