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Eric J. Hobsbawm

Eric J. Hobsbawm, Prospect magazine offices, London, ca. 1998. Photo: Julian Anderson/Eyevine/Redux.

FEW HISTORIANS OF OUR TIME have earned as many bouquets for their professional work and brickbats for their politics as Eric J. Hobsbawm, whose death on October l, 2012, at the age of ninety-five generated extensive international commentary. Magisterial is an overworked adjective, but in his case it was fully deserved, as he was the master of a vast array of sources from the era of capitalist industrialization, nation building, and imperial expansion in Europe, which he fashioned into synthetic narratives of compelling force. This is not the time to revisit his many accomplishments as a scholar—most notably his epic trilogy about the “long nineteenth century” (The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848 [1962]; The Age of Capital: 1848–1875 [1975]; The Age of Empire: 1875–1914 [1987]) and narrative of “the short twentieth century” (The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914–1991

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