Was Eric Hobsbawm a dangerous Communist?Historians in the News
tags: Communism, British history, Eric Hobsbawm
The historian Eric Hobsbawm, who was born in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, and died in 2012 at the age of 95, was widely regarded as an unrepentant Stalinist, a man who, unlike other Marxist historians such as EP Thompson and Christopher Hill, never resigned his membership of the Communist party, and never expressed any regret for his commitment to the communist cause.
In the later part of his long life he was most probably the world’s best-known historian, his books translated into more than 50 languages and selling millions of copies across the globe (about a million in Brazil alone, for example). Yet when the BBC invited him on to the radio programme Desert Island Discs in 1995, the presenter Sue Lawley addressed him distantly as “Professor Hobsbawm”, left his books more or less unmentioned, and focused her attention so unremittingly on his lifelong commitment to communism that the programme turned from the usual comfortable chat into a hostile interrogation.
Many of the reviews of his bestselling history of the 20th century, The Age of Extremes, a work translated into 30 languages, charged him with playing down the evils of Stalinism, and the influential anti-communist French historians Pierre Nora and François Furet were so successful in preventing its publication in France that it was eventually translated into French by an obscure publishing house based in Belgium.
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