Remembering Eric Hobsbawm, Influential British Historian and New School Professor


Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm, the widely read and respected British Marxist historian and author, died on October 1 in London at 95. Hobsbawm lent his considerable insight and knowledge to The New School for Social Research for more than a decade, where he played a key role in sparking revolutionary academic and political debate as University Professor Politics and Society.

Hobsbawm joined NSSR in 1984. In 1986, he co-founded the Committee on Historical Studies with fellow scholars Charles Tilly, Louise Tilly, Ira Katznelson, and Aristide Zolberg. Upon retiring in 1989, Hobsbawm was appointed professor emeritus, and continued lecturing in the politics department.

Despite controversy over his life-long defense of aspects of Soviet-era communism, Hobsbawm work was lauded by historians of all political persuasions. He authored more than 25 books including The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848 (1962); The Age of Capital, 1848-1875 (1975),  The Age of Empire 1875-1914 (1987), and The Age of Extremes 1914-1991 (1994), which are considered masterpieces of political and social history.

Though Hobsbawm spent much of his professional life teaching at Cambridge as well as Birkbeck, University of London, his extensive command of history made him a world-renowned intellectual, and eventually brought him to the United States and The New School.

Praised for his ability to apply social and cultural history to the conventional “grand narrative” of global politics , Hobsbwam is recognized as one of the most influential historians of his age. To NSSR Associate Dean and Professor of History John VanderLippe, he was an inspiration: “His work on European history is the main reason I became a historian myself,” said VanderLippe.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1917, Hobsbawm was the son of an English-Jewish family. Though he completed much of his primary schooling in Vienna and Berlin, events leading up to World War II politicized his thinking, and initiated further study at Cambridge and beyond.