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Long IslandObituaries

Historian Eric Hobsbawm dies at 95

Eric Hobsbawm, who died at age 95, was honored as one of Britain's most distinguished historians, despite retaining an allegiance to the Communist Party that lasted long after many supporters had left in disgust.

He was read by generations of students and revered for his ability to make history come alive, using his socialist perspective to tell stories from the peoples' point of view.

Daughter Julia Hobsbawm said her father died Monday at a London hospital. He had been suffering from pneumonia.

"Right up until the end he was keeping up what he did best; he was keeping up with current affairs," she said. "There was a stack of newspapers by his bed."

Hobsbawm's reading of Karl Marx and his experience living in Germany in the 1930s formed his views. He joined the Communist Party in England in 1936 and stayed a member long after Soviet military force crushed the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring in 1968, although he publicly opposed both interventions.

Hobsbawm is best known for three volumes, spanning the period from 1789 to 1914: "The Age of Revolution" (1962), "The Age of Capital" (1975) and "The Age of Empire" (1987). A later volume, "Age of Extremes," took the story forward from 1914 to 1991.

His last book, "How to Change the World," published in 2011, was not a revolutionary tract but a collection of essays dating back to the 1960s on Marx and Marxism.

Hobsbawm was born June 9, 1917, in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was British, descended from artisans from Poland and Russia, and his mother's family was cultured, middle-class Viennese.

The family moved to Vienna when he was 2. Following the deaths of his father and then his mother, he moved to Berlin in 1931 to live with relatives, and joined the Socialist Schoolboys.

During World War II, Hobsbawm was assigned to an engineering unit that introduced him, for the first time, to the working class. "I didn't know much about the British working class, in spite of being a communist. But to live and work among them, I thought they were good eggs," he said in a 1995 interview.

Hobsbawm was appointed a lecturer at Birkbeck College in London, spending his entire career on the faculty and eventually being appointed president.

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