British historian and noted Communism advocate Eric Hobsbawm has died at the age of 95.
Hobsbawm, considered one of the leading historians of the 20th century, passed away of pneumonia on Monday, after a long struggle with illness, reports The Guardian.
He was a lifelong Marxist whose work influenced generations of historians and politicians. His place within the British Communist Party including Christopher Hill, E. P. Thompson and Raymond Williams, helped focus the traditional view of history on the 19th century labor movements and what he termed the “pre-political” resistance of “bandits, millenarians and urban rioters in early capitalist societies,” notes the NY Times.
Hobsbawm’s most influential work is his intensive four-volume history of the 19th and 20th centuries, starting with the French revolution and ending with the fall of the USSR. Fellow historian Niall Ferguson called the series “the best starting point I know for anyone who wishes to begin studying modern history.”
Though his Communist views made him a controversial figure, Hobsbawm was hardly without criticism of the Labor movement. Recognizing the many missteps made in the name of Marxism throughout history, he admitted that he “never tried to diminish the appalling things that happened in Russia,” but instead focused on the early promise of Communism that “a new world was being born amid blood and tears and horror: revolution, civil war, famine. Thanks to the breakdown of the west, we had the illusion that even this brutal, experimental, system was going to work better than the west. It was that or nothing.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband described Hobsbawm as “an extraordinary historian, a man passionate about his politics and a great friend of my family,” also commenting that he was “a lovely man, with whom I had some of the most stimulating and challenging conversations about politics and the world. My thoughts are with his wife, Marlene, his children and all his family.”