Eric Hobsbawm dies, aged 95

Eric Hobsbawm

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012)

The historian and writer Eric Hobsbawm died yesterday, aged 95. Hobsbawn was a lifelong Marxist whose views had a huge influence both in the discipline of history and in British political thought. He was a student at King's, and in 1973 he was elected an Honorary Fellow.

Hobsbawm was born in 1917 and spent his childhood in Alexandria, Vienna and then Berlin. He was living in Berlin when Hitler rose to power, and it was in this period that he first read Marx. He joined the Socialist Schoolboys and wrote for their journal Schulkampf (School Struggle).

His family moved to London in 1933 and Hobsbawm won a scholarship to King's in 1936. He became a member of the Cambridge Apostles, the secret debating society with students drawn mostly from the colleges of St John's, Trinity and King's.

After serving as a sapper during the war he returned to Cambridge to do a PhD on Fabianism. He wrote his first book, Labour's Turning Point, in 1948 and went on to write some of the most famous and influential books and essays on history in recent times.

In particular he wrote the four-volume The Age of… series, which included 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: 1914-91 (1994). His Industry and Empire (1968) tells the story of Britain's rise as the first industrial power, and has rarely been out of print.

Hobsbawm continued to write, lecture and broadcast until the end of his life. He died of pneumonia at The Royal Free Hospital, London, yesterday morning.


2 October 2012