Monday, 16 March 2009

The Hobsbawm Debate Continues

Perhaps the sanest conrtibution to the great Hobsbawm debate came from Tristram Hunt in Saturday's Guardian. Hunt, whose article on Friedrich Engels is one of the highlights of our forthcoming May edition, states the bald truth that 'the reason Hobsbawm is worthy of respect is that he is one of our greatest historians', his works masterpieces of narrative history, insightful in analysis and of vast breadth.

Though I still feel uneasy about Hobsbawm's Soviet-supporting past, to condemn him as a historian is a little like dismissing Milton's poetry because one dislikes the author's religious views, or condemning Wagner's music because of its composer's bizarre beliefs. As for Hunt's assertion that his critics at the Mail should read his books; we all should. One cannot understand the long 19th century (Hobsbawm's own phrase) without doing so.

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