Hobsbawm's work on the 20th century was read by several generation of students. The man, who was influenced to a great extent by reading Karl Marx and residing in Germany when Hitler was on the rise, had joined the communist party in England in 1936 and stayed its member and opposed the Soviet interventions in Hungary in 1956 and the then Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Hobsbawm is best known for three volumes which spanned the period from 1789 to 1914: The Age of Revolution (1962), The Age of Capital (1975) and The Age of Empire (1987). Later, The Age of Extremes (1994) was a fourth volume which had taken the story forward from 1914 to 1991. The historian's final book, How to Change the World, was published in 2011 and it is a collection of essays on Marx and Marxism.
Hobsbawm was praised for his precise explanations of events and how they influenced the ordinary people. According to a Labour Party leader, Hobsbawm had made history a part of the life of the ordinary people.
Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm was born on Jun 9, 1917, at Alexandria in Egypt. His father was a British while his mother was an Austrian. At 14, he moved to Berlin after the death of his parents and joined the Socialist Schoolboys. He had once said that he was indeed very lucky to have lived in Berlin before Hitler came to power.
As a student in Berlin, Hobsbawm told his schoolmaster that he was a communist and that a revolution was necessary. To this, the teacher advised him to go to the school library and see what he could find there, revealed Hobsbawm during an interview. He discovered the Communist Manifesto and 'that was it', he said. Hobsbawm returned to London in 1933. He got introduced to the working class while working in the engineering unit of the British army during World War II.
The man had an interest in the communist movement not only in Britain, but throughout the world. Even the Leftist leaders in India used to visit him when in London. In 2010, Hobsbawm said in an interview that Indian Left leader Prakash Karat expressed his anxiety about the Left Front's probable defeat in the 2011 West Bengal assembly polls. The matter created controversy.
In 1947, Hobsbawm was appointed as a lecturer at Birkbeck College in London where he spent his entire career as a faculty member and eventually became the president.
In 1998, Hobsbawm was made a Companion of Honour, a rare award for a historian. It is conferred upon 65 living people at any given point of time.
His daughter once asked him what he should advise his grandchildren? To this, Hobsbawm had replied: "To remain curious."
Hobsbawm was first married to Muriel Seaman in 1943 but they got divorced eight years later. In 1962, he married Marlene Schwarz. He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild.
(With inputs from Sky News)