On Hist -Op/106

Eric J. Hobsbawm, Author New Press $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-56584-393-6
Hobsbawm, now 80 and among the most distinguished of living historians, reprints 21 of his essays and lectures that are frankly Marxist in background and seemingly sermons for the dwindling brethren. Still, there is a challenging if bleak wisdom in all of them that goes beyond what Hobsbawm (The Age of Extremes, 1914- 1991) concedes is a failed political movement but remains, he claims, a valid working tool for historians. Quotable gems leap from his pages: ""Arguments about counterfactual alternatives cannot be settled by evidence,"" he contends, ""since evidence is about what happened and hypothetical situations did not happen."" A major theme for Hobsbawm is the ideological abuse of history perpetrated by those who blur the borders between recorded reality and fiction, something he deplores also as postmodernist practice. Yet, recognizing that the desire to restore or to pull down a medieval quarter or a Stalin statue may be more symbolic than effective as history, he observes that a facsimile is ""a form of magic which, by restoring a small but emotionally charged part of a lost past, somehow restores the whole."" History, then, is not merely for the historian: ""It takes two to learn the lessons of history or anything else; one to give the information, the other to listen."" A Cambridge historian educated in interwar Europe, Hobsbawm has lived his contemporary history and makes an effective case here that it should transcend documented narrative, that eye-witness accounts have immediacy. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.