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

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Hobsbawm's Finest

I was surprised that none of the four scholars who wrote about Eric Hobs­bawm (EPW, 17 November 2012) dwelt on some of the excellent historical essays that he wrote. I am not referring to the essay on “The Revival of Narrative” that Ramachandra Guha mentioned or to the essays on aspects of Marxism that Romila Thapar noted. I have in mind the essays that were brought together in Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour (1964). In one of the essays in that volume, Hobsbawm recreated the world of the tramping artisan in 19th century England. There was also his contribution to the standard of living debate. Here Hobs­bawm displayed his mastery over quantitative material. But perhaps the most important was his essay on the 17th ­century crisis. This was ­published in 1954 in Past and Present. It initiated one of the most enriching debates in the historio­graphy of ­early modern Europe. All the essays on this theme were subsequently collected together and edited on behalf of the journal by Trevor Aston in a volume entitled Crisis in Europe. I ­believe that it was in essays such as these, rather than in the more popular tetralogy, that Hobsbawm was at his best as a historian.

Rudrangshu Mukherjee

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