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Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)

Owen Woodson 01 Oct 12 - 09:27 AM
greg stephens 01 Oct 12 - 10:43 AM
theleveller 01 Oct 12 - 10:47 AM
mayomick 01 Oct 12 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,Mike yates 01 Oct 12 - 02:41 PM
Owen Woodson 01 Oct 12 - 03:34 PM
Gibb Sahib 01 Oct 12 - 03:59 PM
Richard from Liverpool 01 Oct 12 - 05:12 PM
Bat Goddess 01 Oct 12 - 06:00 PM
Owen Woodson 02 Oct 12 - 05:46 AM
theleveller 02 Oct 12 - 09:18 AM
Owen Woodson 02 Oct 12 - 09:45 AM
theleveller 02 Oct 12 - 09:50 AM
Matthew Edwards 02 Oct 12 - 11:42 AM
theleveller 02 Oct 12 - 11:48 AM
Owen Woodson 02 Oct 12 - 12:00 PM
theleveller 02 Oct 12 - 12:08 PM
mayomick 03 Oct 12 - 04:46 AM
Owen Woodson 03 Oct 12 - 05:27 AM
mayomick 03 Oct 12 - 08:19 AM
treewind 03 Oct 12 - 08:31 AM
mayomick 03 Oct 12 - 08:50 AM
Owen Woodson 03 Oct 12 - 09:09 AM
theleveller 03 Oct 12 - 09:11 AM
mayomick 03 Oct 12 - 09:46 AM
GUEST,davemc 04 Oct 12 - 05:56 AM
Owen Woodson 04 Oct 12 - 06:07 AM
GUEST,davemc 04 Oct 12 - 10:31 AM
theleveller 04 Oct 12 - 11:11 AM
GUEST,davemc 04 Oct 12 - 12:28 PM
theleveller 04 Oct 12 - 01:13 PM
theleveller 04 Oct 12 - 01:22 PM
theleveller 04 Oct 12 - 01:30 PM
Gibb Sahib 04 Oct 12 - 02:11 PM
GUEST 04 Oct 12 - 08:15 PM
theleveller 05 Oct 12 - 03:13 AM
Owen Woodson 05 Oct 12 - 05:55 AM
Will Fly 05 Oct 12 - 07:34 AM
Owen Woodson 05 Oct 12 - 08:01 AM
theleveller 05 Oct 12 - 09:09 AM
theleveller 05 Oct 12 - 09:11 AM
Owen Woodson 05 Oct 12 - 09:27 AM
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Subject: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 09:27 AM

I've just heard the news that the historian Eric Hobsbawm has died aged 95. His obituary can be read here .

I'd just like to add that he was one of a number of historians who made me realise that there's a lot more to history than the arid emperors, kings and battles stories which I was forced to swallow at school.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 10:43 AM

He was influential in getting jazz and other forms of black music in the public eye in the 50's and 60's. A fabulous and interesting carrer.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: theleveller
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 10:47 AM

Eric Hobsbawn was one of our greatest historians alongside, I would say, Christopher Hill, R H Tawney and Chrisopher Hibbert. He was immensely prolific and his books were always on my son's reading list when doing his degree. I love his 'Uncommon People' which sums up the eclecticism.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: mayomick
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 10:48 AM

A bit short of the century. RIP Eric


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: GUEST,Mike yates
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 02:41 PM

Hobsbawn's book "The Invention of Tradition" should be read by anyone with the slightest interest in our traditions. I know that it was quite an eye-opener for me when I first came read it.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 03:34 PM

Invention of Tradition? Absolutely. And to The Leveller's list of great historians I would have to add EP Thompson and Keith Thomas.

When I was at university, students were encouraged to take optional units outside their own department, so I signed up for the History Department's Introduction to Economic History. Very good unit, very good lecturer but far too right wing for my tastes. When he talked us through the reading list, he warned us about uncritically accepting the writings of Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill.

No there was nothing wrong with their scholarship, and their various tomes were eminently readable. But they were both Marxists and therefore we had to take what they said with a measure of scepticism.

How, I wonder, were we to approach all the right wing historians who he'd put down on his reading list?


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 03:59 PM

Owen,
Could you clarify, please?:

very good lecturer but far too right wing for my tastes. When he talked us through the reading list, he warned us about uncritically accepting the writings of Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill.

Who is "he"?

Your post is interesting; I'm just trying to sort it out, thanks.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 05:12 PM

He had a good innings and did a lot of fantastic work. I would say a lot of his work is required reading even if (perhaps especially if) you don't agree with his Marxist analysis. Like C.B. Macpherson and E.P. Thompson, he is of those very important beasts: someone capable of provoking you and causing you to critically examine taken for granted assumptions about the shape of history. I would say that my belief in the value of "tradition" is a lot stronger for understanding the conditions under which traditions are invented, and I would say that my scepticism of revolution and the overturning of the established order is far better informed having read his The Age of Revolution. One of the true greats.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 01 Oct 12 - 06:00 PM

The first book I read of his was "Bandits". Just discovered today that we share a birth date...he snagged it first, though.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 05:46 AM

Gibb Sahib. His name was Peter Roebuck. Like I said, a very good lecturer, and I was absolutely fascinated by what he had to say. But he was firmly in the conservative tradition of economic history.

There's nothing wrong with that of course. Indeed, given the nature of economic history, debate between the two sides is an essential part of undertsanding it.

But I never could understand why Hill and Hobsbawm needed to be read any more critically than, say, Chambers, Mingay or FML Thompson.

A propos of buggar all. Some years after I graduated, I ended up on an industrial relations course at Manchester Polytechnic. The lecturer gave us the course reading list and then wrote a name on the board.

"Don't go near anything by this man", he said. "He's a Marxist. An absolute bloody anarchist."

The name of the authority he'd written on the board. It was one RALPH MILIBAND. A highly respected sociologist and father of the present leader of the Labour Party.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: theleveller
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 09:18 AM

"I would say that my scepticism of revolution and the overturning of the established order is far better informed having read his The Age of Revolution."

Only dipped into this but now my son's given me his uni copy I'll put it on the reading pile. Ah, so many books, so little time!


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 09:45 AM

"Ah, so many books, so little time!"

God. Do I know the feeling! And so much fading memory. Not even sure whether I've got a copy. Not even sure whether I've ever read it.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: theleveller
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 09:50 AM

On the plus side, Owen, my grandfather lived to the age of 94 and read several books a week right up to the end - usually history and politics. With you on the fading memory - I'm now having to re-read books.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 11:42 AM

Sorry to learn of the death of Eric Hobsbawm; besides the obituary the Guardian also honoured him with an editorial article.

My personal favourite among his books is the one he wrote with George Rudé, Captain Swing, on the agricultural rebellions and riots in England in the 1830's. Well worth reading, especially if you want to understand what a song like The Hard Times of Old England really means.

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: theleveller
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 11:48 AM

"My personal favourite among his books is the one he wrote with George Rudé, Captain Swing, on the agricultural rebellions and riots in England in the 1830's."

Oh sod! Another one to add to the reading list - better try to add another few years to my life. Right, off to Bookfinder.com to find a second-hand copy.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 12:00 PM

Hobsbawm/Rude is one book I certainly have got, and read! In fact I'd say it's indispensable for anyone who wants to understand southern English folk song.

Also worth checking out is WH Hudson's A Shepherd's Life: Impressions of the South Wiltshire Downs. It's thirty odd years since I read it, and it's bound to be less authoritative than the Hobsbawm/Rude. But I still remember the extraordinarily rivetting nature of the narrative. In fact, I remember reading it with a record playing in the background. I was so mesmerised by Hudson's prose that, when the record stopped playing and broke the spell, it took me a second or two to work out where I was.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: theleveller
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 12:08 PM

Aaaaaaaargh...get thee behind me!


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: mayomick
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 04:46 AM

"He's a Marxist. An absolute bloody anarchist."

That's like saying "He's a Christian . An absolute bloody Moslem ."


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 05:27 AM

Not really. A lot of anarchists believe in a socialist revolution which will happen from the ground up and of its own volition, when the time is right, and without a disciplined revolutionary party to lead it. Which is pretty much what Marx believed.

Bolshevism, the idea that the revolution could only be held together by a hard core of cadres was Lenin's, not Marx's. Unfortunately, that led to Stalinism, and the idea that society could only be transformed by a rigid dicatorship controlled from the top down.

BTW. I'm no theologian, but I suspect that Christanity and Islam have far more similarities than differences.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: mayomick
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:19 AM

Yes, indeed Owen, Islam and Christianity are both religions and would therefore have more in common with each other than with lawnmowers for instance . I was making a loose analogy .
Anarchists and Marxists have more in common with each other than they do with Leninists, you seem to think. I wonder what the anarchist leader Bakunin would have made of that:

"... the instinct of liberty is lacking in him [Marx]; he remains from head to foot, an authoritarian". .........Bakunin


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: treewind
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:31 AM

"the anarchist leader"

[collapses in helpless giggles]


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: mayomick
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:50 AM

Why giggle ? Most anarchists, I think , would say that they are opposed to rulers, not leaders.
This is from an anarchist website:

1. Guide: a leader who persuades by example and suggestion, based on experience or informed speculation (expressed as such). Practices voluntary relationships. Legitimate.

2. Master: a leader who manipulates through duress or deceit, based on experience or misinformed speculation (often concealed). Practices coercive relationships. Illegitimate.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 09:09 AM

mayomick. You would need to check this out with someone who understood Islam. However,my own understanding is that Christianity and Islam converge on a great many points of theology. They are certainly more alike than lawnmowers, but I think you will find that they are more alike than, say, Buddhism as well.

Regarding Bakunin. I've never read him, so I can't help you. He may have thought Marx authoritarian. I don't.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: theleveller
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 09:11 AM

By all accounts Bakunin was a bit of a control freak himself, with a penchant for secret societies - as were several others. Lots of good stuff in Peter Marshall's Demanding the Impossible - A History of Anarchism.


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Subject: RE: Obit: E J Hobsbawm
From: mayomick
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 09:46 AM

Christianity and Islam do converge on a great many points of theology. The competing left ideologies known as Marxism and anarchism also converged on a lot of points, but that didn't make Marx an anarchist .


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: GUEST,davemc
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 05:56 AM

Apologist for Stalinism. Good riddance.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 06:07 AM

davemc. I'm sorry but you've lost me. Are you talking about Marx or Bakunin? Whichever one you're referring to, they were both dead long before Stalinism raised its ugly head.

I can't speak for Bakunin because I don't know that much about him. But Marx would have been horrified if he had witnessed the totalitarian monster which had been created in his name.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: GUEST,davemc
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 10:31 AM

Owen Woodson, the thread is headed Eric J Hobsbawm so naturally it is him I'm referring to as an apologist for Stalin.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 11:11 AM

Davemc, that needs to be taken in the context of his whole massive body of work. You could say the same of Jean Paul Satre, or Ewan McColl for that matter.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: GUEST,davemc
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 12:28 PM

Indeed, theleveller, but I doubt people would give the same latitude or appeals to 'context' for an academic who'd expressed a similar level of approval for that other murderous nutter, Hitler, for example. The left always goes all cuddly and soft on its own.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 01:13 PM

Dave, I'm genuinely confused by your statement which is both sweeping and unequivocal. Perhaps you could give me some examples in support of your statement.

Purely out of interest and to see how much validity your comment has, I have just picked up Hobsbawm's The Age of Extremes, which happens to be in a pile next to my table and looked up 'Stalin' in the index. Here are the first refernces from the index. On page 39 he talks of Hitler's underestimation of Russia's ability to resist invasion, ..."not, however, without some plausibility, given the disorganisation of the Red Army by the purges of the 1930s, the apparent state of the country, the general effects of the terror, and Stalin's own extraordinarily inept interventions into military strategy." On the next page he talks about how Stalin came close to making peace but how the Russian army was saved by his "....allowing the very talented military leaders (some of them recently released from the gulags) to do what they thought best. The years of 1942-45 was the only time when Stalin paused in his terror." The next reference to Stalin says, "The change, which proved politically calamitous,is rather to be explained by the internal politics of the soviet Communist Party as Stalin took control of it."

Etc., etc., etc. Hardly the statements of an apologist. Perhaps you'd like to prove your point by supplying some quotes of your own and the context in which they appear.

As for your comments about Hitler and the left going cuddly on its own - what a load of bullshit. Try reading Todorov's Hope and Memory. Sorry to appear rude but methinks you know not of what you speak.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 01:22 PM

Dave, I've just shown your comments about Hobsbawm, Hitler and the left to my son, who has just come two marks short of a first in an Honours Degree in History and Politics (mostly 20th century history) and he just pissed himself.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 01:30 PM

Oh, I'll spare your blushes by not repeating what the rude boy called you!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 02:11 PM

Owen -- belated thanks for your response to my request for clarification.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Oct 12 - 08:15 PM

Reading for theleveller:

Life and Death of Eric Hobsbawm


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 03:13 AM

Ha ha ha. No political axe to grind in that magazine, eh? You'll be quoting from the Daily Mail next.

BTW, have you actually read any Hobsbawm or are you just prepared to accept other people's opinions verbatim? Personally, I'm not a marxist and I hate totalitarianism, but that doesn't mean that I can't respect Hobsbawm as a historian. As I've shown above he was certainly prepared to crticise Stalin.

As Frank Zappa once said, "The mind is like a parachute - it only works when it's open." Enjoy your freefall.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 05:55 AM

What a splendidly factual and trustworthy paen of objectivity! Hobsbawm the Marxist equivalent of the holocaust denying David Irving? I hardly think so.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 07:34 AM

Well, I'm just re-reading "Captain Swing" and - once again - enjoying a thoroughly researched, compassionate, articulate and readable account of the fate of the agricultural worker in Southern and Eastern England in the early years of the 19th century.

I have letters written by members of my own family in the 1830s - to another ancestor who emigrated to Canada in 1835 to get away from the misery of living in Norfolk - which corroborate the drudgery and harshness of agricultural life as described by Hobsbawm and Rude in "Captain Swing". It's a great book.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 08:01 AM

As a result of this thread, I realised I was missing a copy of Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution. It arrived just this morning and includes the following quote from a review by AJP Taylor, himself no slouch when it came to relating history. "A brilliant account of Europe in its revolutionary age..... No-one could ask for more".

A selective quote without a doubt, and it would be interesting to see whether the rest of Taylor's review was quite as fulsome. Even so, there are three other review quotes on the back cover, all of them from highly respected sources. They all use the word brilliant.

An apologist for Stalinism, or a Marxist equivalent of David Irving, EJ Hobsbawm most certainly was not.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 09:09 AM

"What a splendidly factual and trustworthy paen of objectivity! Hobsbawm the Marxist equivalent of the holocaust denying David Irving? I hardly think so."

This really is the worst kind of journalism - where the writer seeks to justify an already-entrenched position whilst disregarding anything to the contrary. Where is any appraisal of Hobsbawm as an historian - surely the area on which his whole reputation rests? The comparison with Irving is fatuous, of course (although I don't pretend to have read anything that Irving has written) because Hobsbawm's reputation as an historian has never been seriously challenged, whereas Irving's has been totally discredited.

I agree that Hobsbawm is an, at times almost fanatical, supporter of Marxism and, as someone with anarchist leanings, I disagree fundamentally with him there, but that does not make him any less objective on historical issues. If that were so, we would have to dismiss any historian who had strong political or religious beliefs.

One final point and then I'm away to the hills where things always take on a calmer and, perhaps, more spiritual perspective: I really would reccomend anyone with an interest in the historical and moral aspects of totalitarianism and its legacy to read Todorov's Hope and Memory, as mention before. He looks at it through the eyes of people who were the victims of both and his conclusions are both enlightening and humbling. Another great writer, whose Imperfect Garden is now top of the reading pile. Could it be that I really am a humanist at heart? Hmmmm.....


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 09:11 AM

.....victims of both fascism and Stalinism.....(sorry)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric J Hobsbawm (1917-2012)
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 09:27 AM

The Leveller. Good Point. David Irving was discredited, not because he was a Nazi sympathiser, but because he deliberately and systematically falsified the evidence surrounding the holocaust. Perhaps one of Hobsbawm's detractors could show evidence of similar falsification on his part, but I doubt it.


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