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Monday, Sep 22, 2003

past & present

"None of these historians, though, achieved greater worldwide prominence than Eric Hobsbawm, a co-founder of Past & Present. His subject—pursued in a series of books that traced social, economic, and political developments from the French Revolution to the late twentieth century—was modernity itself. Perhaps Great Man history was dead, but Hobsbawm himself acquired something of the aura of a great man. He never had a “school”—the Historians’ Group, in the decade following the Second World War, met upstairs at the Garibaldi Restaurant, on London’s Saffron Hill—but he did have notoriety. In the Historians’ Group painting, Hobsbawm appears farthest to the left, and his placement is entirely appropriate. After the Soviet invasion of Hungary, in 1956, the other prominent Marxist historians—like countless idealists of their generation—renounced the Party. But Hobsbawm stuck it out, refusing to repudiate the Communist dream. And so an obvious question arises: How could such a celebrated and accomplished historian have remained so oblivious of the lessons of recent history?"