Eric Hobsbawm – Professor of history

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Eric Hobsbawm

Eric was one of the world’s leading historians, appointed to Birkbeck’s Department of History in 1947 and served as its President from 2012 until his death at the age of 95.  

He was born in Alexandria, Egypt and came to London as a schoolboy via Vienna and Berlin. As an historian, he was as comfortable writing about society in the Middle Ages as he was talking about twenty-first century culture. Through his writings, the lives of working people, including bandits, factory workers, and trade unionists, were brought into historical focus.   

Eric wrote extensively on many subjects as one of Britain’s most prominent historians and also wrote a regular column about jazz for the New Statesman under the pseudonym Francis Newton, taken from the name of Billie Holiday’s communist trumpet player, Frankie Newton. He had become interested in jazz during the 1930s when it was frowned upon by the Communist Party. 

He was a lifelong Marxist and interpreted for Che Guevara. He even hosted members of the Colombian revolutionary armed forces group, FARC in Birkbeck’s cafeteria. 


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