The voice of Hobsbawm
Publisher: Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres
Date Written: 08/10/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX23019
A look at how the work and ideas of influential British Historian Eric Hobsbawm made an entry into the Indian intellectual scene, as well as his involvement in two crucial political and intellectual debates in Brazil that cemented his reputation there.
However, when it came to global influence, there were few Marxists who could match him. By the time Hobsbawm died in 2012, he was probably the best-known English-language historian, and quite possibly one of the most famous historians in any language. His books were read in a remarkable range of countries by an equally remarkable range of people. Crucially, this included all kinds of non-Marxists - from students to curious members of the literate public - who would never have dreamed of voting for a communist or socialist party, much less engage with the writings of other Marxists, such as Louis Althusser or Antonio Gramsci. All of which makes Hobsbawm the ideal case study of how Marxist ideas travelled across the world at specific historical moments.
My focus here is on two countries with rich and highly developed Marxist cultures: India and Brazil. The story of how Hobsbawm's work arrived in these countries and interacted with emerging political trends, debates and arguments is only a minor footnote to the broader history of Marxist thought in these places. But it offers a fascinating insight into how the writings of a bright, slightly nerdy, British academic could end up gracing the shelves of Indian civil servants and Brazilian housewives.