ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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In Memory of Hobsbawm

An assessment of Hobsbawm based on the contexts and contradictions which marked his life and work. Using insights from his autobiography, Interesting Times, this tribute attempts to understand his politics and academic contributions which make him one of the greatest historians of the 20th century.

Along life, amazingly rich and productive till the very end, is now over. It is, indeed, the passing of an era: of a tradition of committed Marxist history writing which peaked, especially in post-War Britain. Hobsbawm belonged to the “Historians’ Group” of the Communist Party of Great Britain which founded the journal Past and Present and which, at one point, included Christopher Hill, E P Thompson, Rodney Hilton and many other towering figures. It was a generation that was directly ­engaged with tumultuous world histo­rical events in ways that had seldom been the lot of historians in other times and places. Hobsbawm himself was born in 1917. He and his contemporaries saw the rise and fall of socialist revolutions the world over. Many fought in one of the bloodiest wars in history. They lived for very large stretches of their lives under the shadow of an imminent nuclear holocaust. They also saw some remarkable triumphs: the defeat of fascism, of formal imperialism in Asia and Africa, and the American defeat in Vietnam.

Creative Contradictions

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