Lifestyle & Belief

Eric J. Hobsbawm, respected British Marxist historian, dies aged 95


Communist protesters march during a demonstration on May 1, 2012 in London, England.


Dan Kitwood

Eric J. Hobsbawm, the respected British historian known for his unflinching allegiance to the Communist Party, has died at age 95.

Hobsbawm had pneumonia and leukemia, and he had been suffering from pneumonia, his daughter Julia Hobsbawm said, the LA Times reported.

He died early Monday at a London hospital.

Julia Hobsbawm said:

"He’d been quietly fighting leukemia for a number of years without fuss or fanfare. Right up until the end he was keeping up what he did best, he was keeping up with current affairs. There was a stack of newspapers by his bed."

His family said in a statement:

"He will be greatly missed not only by his wife of 50 years, Marlene, and his three children, seven grandchildren and great grandchild, but also by his many thousands of readers and students around the world."

Hobsbawm's book "The Age of Extremes: The short 20th century, 1914 to 1991," published in 1994, was translated into 40 languages.

He also wrote a three-volume series on the 19th century, "The Age of Revolution," "The Age of Capital" and "The Age of Empire," and a best-selling memoir.

The committed Marxist was, according to the Associated Press, "read by generations of students and revered for his ability to make history come alive, using his socialist perspective to tell stories from the peoples’ point of view."

He was "famous for examining the economic and social forces underpinning history," the Irish Times reported.

Hobsbawm joined the Communist Party in England in 1936 and stayed loyal, even after the Soviets interventions in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, which he publicly opposed, according to the LA Times.

The paper quoted the late British historian A.J.P. Taylor as saying:

"Most historians, by a sort of occupational disease, are interested only in the upper classes and assume that they themselves would have been numbered among the privileged if they had lived a century or two ago — a most unlikely assumption. Mr. Hobsbawm places his loyalty firmly on the other side of the barricades."

The Irish Times quoted Britain's Labour leader, Ed Miliband as calling him "an extraordinary historian" who brought history "out of the ivory tower" and into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.