Eric Hobsbawm

one of the leading historians of the 20th century, has died

Eric  Hobsbawm, a lifelong Marxist whose work influenced generations of historians and politicians, died .

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Coined the term “long nineteenth century“, which began with the French Revolution in 1789 and ended with the beginning of The Great War in 1914.

Hobsbawm’s four-volume history of the 19th and 20th centuries, spanning European history from the French revolution to the fall of the USSR, is acknowledged as among the defining works on the period.

Fellow historian Niall Ferguson called the quartet, from The Age of Revolution to 1994’s The Age of Extremes, “the best starting point I know for anyone who wishes to begin studying modern history”.

Hobsbawm was dubbed “Neil Kinnock’s guru” in the early 1990s, after criticising the Labour party for failing to keep step with social changes, and was regarded as influential in the birth of New Labour, though he later expressed disappointment with the government of Tony Blair.

“His historical works brought hundreds of years of British history to hundreds of thousands of people. He brought history out of the ivory tower and into people’s lives.

“But he was not simply an academic, he cared deeply about the political direction of the country.

“Indeed he was one of the first people to recognise the challenges to Labour in the late 1970s and 1980s from the changing nature of our society

Hobsbawm’s lifelong commitment to Marxist principles made him a controversial figure, however, in particular his membership of the British Communist party that continued even after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

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Hobsbawm was born into a Jewish family in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1917, and grew up in Vienna and Berlin, moving to London with his family in 1933, the year that Hitler came to power in Germany. He studied at Marylebone grammar school and King’s College, Cambridge, and became a lecturer at Birkbeck University in 1947, the beginning of a lifelong association that culminated in his becoming the university’s president.

He became a fellow of the British Academy in 1978 and was awarded the companion of honour in 1998

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