11|06|06: Eric Hobsbawm “Interesting Times“

I had known his name but never bothered to read any of Hobsbawm’s works apart from the odd article. Working on an essay on the “Invention of Tradition” offered a first serious point of contact. Any biography covering the life of a person born 1917 in Alexandria with a childhood in post-war Vienna, adolescence in pre-Nazi Berlin and studies in Cambridge in the 1930s plus membership in the Communist Party would make for a fine reading. But Hobsbawm’s autobiography published in 2002 is far more than an excellently written chronicle of “Interesting Times”; it is a textbook of left and liberal political thinking, the bold development of new fields of science, on friendship and, of course, of his own profession: “I concluded that the world of 2002 needs historians more than ever, especially sceptical ones. Perhaps reading the perambulations of an old member of the species through his lifetime may assist the young to face the darkening prospects of the twenty-first century (…) with a clearer eye, a sense of historical memory and a capacity to stand away from current passions and sales pitches.” (London 2003, p.412). Btw: the old man is still around.