Summary of Eric Hobsbawm: The Consolations of History

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Eric Hobsbawm was a historian who was known for his work on the Communist Party and the labor movement. He wrote extensively on the history of communism and the development of capitalism, and his work is still highly influential today.

  • 00:00:00 Eric Hobsbawm was born in 1922 in England and became a historian. He specialized in general history and wrote extensively on many different topics. He was a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s and was very frustrated with the Soviet Union and its policies. After World War II, he lived in Berlin and was part of the historical moment when Hitler came to power. He left Berlin in 1948 and went to Cambridge, where he became a professor. In 1995, he published his autobiography, which was later published in 1000 pages of data and intelligence files.
  • 00:05:00 Eric Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1895 to Austrian parents. He and his mother moved to Vienna in 1917, when he was just a young boy, and the year saw the first jazz record be produced. The following year, his father died of a heart attack, and the family moved to Berlin to live with Nelly's sister and her husband. In 1931, his mother was admitted to a sanatorium with tuberculosis, and Eric and Nancy moved back to Alexandria to be with his grandparents. Hobsbawm wrote about his experiences in a piece for the LRB in 2008.
  • 00:10:00 Eric Hobsbawm was born in 1922 in Bron, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He became interested in history after becoming a communist and started reading Communist literature. In 1933, his family moved to England and he started attending an English secondary school and then an English university. He became a historian after growing interested in history while living in England and France during the 1930s and 1940s.
  • 00:15:00 Eric Hobsbawm was a historian who, during the 1940s, became a target of British intelligence because of his involvement in campaigning for a second front during World War II. His family was investigated, and they were found to be communists. Hobsbawm was eventually transferred to different army positions, and in 1944 he requested a posting abroad. However, his request was denied because of his communist ties.
  • 00:20:00 Eric Hobsbawm pursued a career in academia despite having a communist history from the 1930s, and he is now considered one of the foremost historians of the 20th century. He has written extensively on the history of the British working class and the Cold War, and his work is still being debated today.
  • 00:25:00 Eric Hobsbawm was a historian who was known for his work on the Communist Party Historians Group and his journal, Past and Present. In the 1950s, he went to Italy and became interested in the struggles of the common people there, which he later described in his book, Primitive Rebels. He also wrote about the social bandit, a figure who becomes a hero for the oppressed and enters popular mythology.
  • 00:30:00 Eric Hobsbawm discusses his internal struggles with staying in the Communist Party after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He argues that emotional attachments to the movement prevented him from leaving.
  • 00:35:00 Eric Hobsbawm was a historian who focused on the development of jazz in the 20th century. He began writing about jazz for the New Statesman in the early 1960s and began developing his work on "Primitive Rebels" while on a Rockefeller Foundation grant in South America. One evening, Hobsbawm accompanied the George Shearing Jazz Quintet to the Royal Festival Hall.
  • 00:40:00 Eric Hobsbawm's 1962 book "The Age of Revolution" covers the period from the French Revolution up to the 1848 revolutions, in a way that reflects his Marxist thinking. The book has a structure that takes its foundation on two axes: the first axis is chronological, and the second is thematic. The chronological axis covers wars, revolutions, and other major events; the thematic axis covers various aspects of life, such as economics, religion, and the arts. Hobsbawm's wide-ranging and well-informed book is still highly influential.
  • 00:45:00 In this lecture, historian Eric Hobsbawm discusses the history of revolutions and nationalism, highlighting how revolutions and nationalism are born out of the growth of states and the need for ideologies to unify a nation. He also discusses how education is central to the construction of nationalism, and how historians often get history wrong because they forget the past.
  • 00:50:00 Eric Hobsbawm's book "The Age of Capital" tells the story of the development of capitalism and nationalism from the 1860s to the 1870s. Nationalism and capitalism are both necessary for the development of capitalism, but nationalism can create problems because it creates a counter-nationalism. In the 1970s, Hobsbawm became a public intellectual and his work resonated with other scholars around the world.
  • 00:55:00 Eric Hobsbawm was a historian who wrote extensively on the history of communism and the labor movement. In the 1980s, he wrote an article for Marxism Today called "Forward March of Labour Halted," which became influential in the development of New Labour. He has since distanced himself from New Labour, and is now critical of its centrist policies.

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Eric Hobsbawm discusses the history of the 19th and 20th centuries, arguing that the current period of global disorder is perhaps worse than any previous period. He reflects on his life and career as a historian, and how he feels his memoirs reflect positively on his contribution to history.

  • 01:00:00 Eric Hobsbawm's three books on the history of the 19th century span the period from 1914 to 1991. He discusses the rise of nationalism and the difficulties of managing international relations in the period. Hobsbawm argues that it was impossible to negotiate permanent arrangements after the breakdown of the balance of power.
  • 01:05:00 Eric Hobsbawm discusses the collapse of civilisation in the 19th century, which was followed by a period of "The Golden Age" in the middle of the 20th century, before the trend of globalisation led to a period of "The Landslide." He argues that this era of instability is continuing into the present, and that the current form of global disorder is perhaps worse than any previous period.
  • 01:10:00 Eric Hobsbawm discusses the two contradictory views of the 20th century that he holds: one in which the October Revolution is the defining event, and the other in which communism and liberalism are on the same side fighting fascism. He worries that the people who are likely to benefit from this instability are the reactionaries, and worries that the cause of reason and progress may be weakening.
  • 01:15:00 Eric Hobsbawm discusses the consolations of history and how it can help ease the frustrations of living in the present. He notes that despite the challenges of the present, history still provides a guide for understanding where we are and where we have been.
  • 01:20:00 Eric Hobsbawm reflects on his life and career as a historian, and how he feels his memoirs reflect positively on his contribution to history. He reflects on his final conversation with his mentor and friend, George Orwell.

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