Eric Hobsbawm, 'Marx and History', New Left Review I/143 (Jan-Feb 1984)
The LSHG is very sorry to learn of the passing of Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) - one of the greatest Marxist historians of the 'short twentieth century' - no doubt we will carry a proper obituary and appreciation in the future but for now our sincere condolences to his family, friends and comrades. Hobsbawm made an immense intellectual contribution, and whatever one's precise differences with some of his political positions, all historians - socialist or not - stand in his debt.
Keith Flett, LSHG Convenor adds:
Eric Hobsbawm 1917-2012
He did not however, unlike them, leave the Communist Party in 1956.
I heard Hobsbawm speak on many occasions down the decades, always a fascinating moment. While we came from two very different wings of the left- he from the Communist Party, or Stalinist, tradition and myself from the [unorthodox] Trotskyist one- he was kind enough to provide some encouraging comments for my first volume of socialist history some years ago.
The art of Hobsbawm’s history was of course the sweep of grand narrative but particularly the attention to detail. If you wanted anecdotes which perfectly illustrated historical points on flat caps, football or fish and chips Hobsbawm had them at his finger tips.
Labour history, Hobsbawm’s core subject can sometimes seem rather dull, but never in his work.
Hobsbawm’s politics were more controversial than his history on the left and it might be argued that the two were not quite as closely connected as one might have expected them to be and generally that was just as well.
In particular his Forward March of Labour Halted which laid some of the intellectual ground work for the New Labour was a less than happy intervention.
Hobsbawm wrote and published widely over many decades and towered in recent times over socialist history. It is to be hoped that his work will continue to inspire new work in socialist history and that there are some unpublished pieces still to see the light of day.
Edited to add: Obituary by Ian Birchall and the collection of obituaries / tributes here