Books by Eric Hobsbawm

FRACTURED TIMES by Eric Hobsbawm
Released: May 6, 2014

"Hobsbawm speaks to the crucial need for engaged public intellectuals and the kind of rigorous social and political analysis so well represented by these urgent and important essays."
The last writings of an eminent British historian. Read full book review >
Released: March 18, 2007

"Good grounds for heated discussion about America's role in the world."
Welcome to the disunited nations, presided over by an inept superpower, inhabited by corrupt client states and endured by an ever-suffering mass of humankind. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 12, 2003

"Not for readers seeking an emotional account of the inner life, but a bracingly frank look at the realities of being a 20th-century radical."
The noted British historian's tough-minded autobiography. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2000

"Although rather depressing (Hobsbawn allows that he 'cannot look to the future with great optimism`), this is a concise, honest, and cautious approach to the state of human affairs."
At the brink of the millennium, socialist historian Hobsbawm examines major trends in international politics and world events. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

A collection of occasional pieces, journal articles, and reviews by one of our great historians (The Age of Extremes, 1995, etc.), showing off his catholicity of interests. Hobsbawm's recurring concern in this new volume (15 of the 26 essays are previously uncollected in book form) is the forgotten men and women—the poor, the working class—who would have slipped through the cracks of macro-history were it not for his own work and that of others who write "history from below." Even his jazz criticism is informed by this impulse—jazz, he writes, is "one of the few developments in the major arts entirely rooted in the lives of poor people," a premise that is debatable but not uninformed. The book falls neatly into sections: a series of essays on questions of English working-class history, another on peasantry and social banditry (a Hobsbawm specialty), reflections on recent history, most of it American; several jazz pieces; and a closing meditation on the Columbus quincentenary. An economic historian by training and persuasion, Hobsbawm is at his best when using a seemingly irrelevant detail to elucidate larger trends, as in an aside on the simultaneous rise of the cloth worker's cap, the school tie, and the private golf club in Victorian England, signs of emerging class stratification. It is hard to imagine any other historian who could make such fruitful use of the class implications of the rise of the fish-and-chip shop from the increase of purchases of industrial fish fryers. As a jazz critic, Hobsbawm brings a similarly astute sense of the interrelationship of social and economic history; regrettably, his sense of the music itself is not nearly as artistic. A collection of Hobsbawm's writing is always welcome, and this one unearths some buried gems. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 30, 1995

A troubling look at world history during the ``Short Twentieth Century,'' from 1914 to 1991. Hobsbawm (History/Univ. of London; The Jazz Age, 1992, etc.) divides his review of this tumultuous period into thirds: the ``Age of Catastrophe'' from 1914 through 1945, when the world was continually either engaged in vastly destructive wars or preparing for them; the ``Golden Age,'' from 1945 to 1973, characterized by a standoff between capitalist and communist blocs and by increasing wealth and social revolution in the capitalist sector; and the ``Landslide'' after 1973, when the world ``lost its bearing and slid into instability and crisis.'' The author points out that this short span of the 20th century saw the disappearance or diminution of the world's ancient kingdoms, empires, and great powers; the waging of the two most destructive wars in world history and many minor ones; multiplication of world population; a growing threat of ecological disaster; and technologically orchestrated death on a mass scale. At the same time, the author notes, there was unprecedented economic prosperity in the postWW II years, and triumphs of science and technology promised to better the lot of humankind, at least in the richer countries. Reviewing transformations in social mores, global economy, politics, and the arts, Hobsbawm concludes that the world is now radically less Eurocentric than it was before WW I and much more integrated in transport, communications, and economics—so much so that the very term ``national economy'' may be outmoded. At the same time, societies are significantly more anomic and individualistic as ancient patterns of human relationships have disintegrated. The socialist historian concludes that the human race cannot prosper in the face of the continued growth of world capitalism and relentless change. This eloquent, well-written, and depressing review of the folly and tragedy of humankind's recent past is even more oppressive when it looks into what appears to be an unstable future. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
THE JAZZ SCENE by Eric Hobsbawm
Released: Jan. 1, 1993

Intelligently written and updated study of American jazz first published in Britain 30 years ago (under the pseudonym Francis Newton) by Marxist social historian Hobsbawm (Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, etc.). Though Hobsbawm has not changed his basic text in this first American edition—a history of jazz and then discursions on the jazz scene in the early 60's—he has added much new material, and the new text is often more spirited than the earlier. The new material first appeared in The New York Review of Books and The New Statesman, for which Hobsbawm is something of a jazz journalist or jazz historian. He begins with the prehistory of jazz, about which he is knowledgeable without being dense—although his slow start may cost him readers. It's hard to imagine a jazz player today reading this material, but it's not hard to pin down Hobsbawm's ideal readers: finger-snapping literati. The author exposes his likes and dislikes in his liveliest passages, and 30 years ago foresaw the spiritual ossification of Miles Davis, long before the musician buried his talent in fusion jazz. All the greats are covered in passing (Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday), while further space is given to Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Mahalia Jackson, and Sidney Bechet. Gunther Schuller's magnum opus, The Swing Era (1988), comes under fire for not swinging enough, despite its many pleasures (``some like it hot,'' Hobsbawm says, though a cool kettle himself). Perhaps Hosbawm's tastiest comments are about the business side and work ethics, where his historian's eye strips the jazz scene down to its commercial spine as the music moves from the countryside to the city and becomes professional. Without fail, the author shows, each new musical wave hardens into show biz. Podium chat backed by a snare drum's whispering percipience. Read full book review >