Eric Hobsbawm: A Tribute from the Socialist History Society
by David Morgan
Tue 2nd Oct 2012
The Socialist History Society is deeply saddened to learn of the death of its Honorary President Eric Hobsbawm on 1 October at the age of 95.
As an individual and as a historian, Eric Hobsbawm has long been an inspiration to many thousands of people around the world who have read his books. As a historian of great integrity and distinction, there is no doubt that he will continue to inspire future generations of scholars and activists.
He was and will remain a towering figure and influence for many years to come.
Eric Hobsbawm was the last of a remarkable generation of historians who changed fundamentally the ways that people look at the world. They opened up research into many new aspects of human societies and popular movements that had been previously ignored by historians.
Never afraid to court controversy, Hobsbawm was unwavering in his commitment to the basic principles that he adopted in his youth. He was always prepared to articulate unpopular opinions if he believed he was expressing the truth.
Eric Hobsbawm was, of course, one of the founders of the SHS’s predecessor, the Communist Party Historians’ Group. Its legacy still lives on, not least in such areas as labour history, and the study of popular culture and movements. It shows the continuing relevance and validity of Marxist scholarship.
Eric Hobsbawm was more than just a historian. He was a ‘public intellectual’ who helped us to remain connected to basic values of human solidarity. He expressed the reasons why people continue to hope and work for a better future for all humanity.
As even some right-leaning critics admitted, Hobsbawm came to exemplify the fundamental principles of humanitarianism, enlightenment, integrity, critical thinking and a belief in humanity’s ability to improve the world by collective action. Such principles are today sadly lacking in much of what is done by contemporary political leaders and written by historians and commentators on current affairs.
Although his death is a great loss to us, we are encouraged by the knowledge that Eric Hobsbawm will certainly continue to influence future generations as a guide and as a teacher. His books, translated into so many languages, will go on attracting readers worldwide, and will not go out of print or circulation any time soon.
The SHS is proud of its close association with Eric Hobsbawm. We would like to put on record our appreciation of our late President. He was always unstintingly supportive of our work. His only public appearance in the UK to promote what turned out to be his last book, How to Change the World, took place under the auspices of the Society at the Bishopsgate Institute in 2011.
The SHS will be announcing what is being planned by way of tributes to Eric Hobsbawm in due course.
We send our sincerest condolences to his widow Marlene and the entire Hobsbawm family.
The Socialist History Society and the SHS Committee