As he approached his fiftieth birthday, Eric Hobsbawm finally won recognition. His Primitive Rebels (1959) was an innovative study of millenarian rural movements. In 1962 he published The Age of Revolution, the first of four books that encompassed the modern era with unrivalled powers of synthesis, and his volume on Labouring Men (1964) gathered up incisive essays on labour history that had appeared over the previous decade. Hobsbawm’s academic career, which had been held back by membership of the Communist Party, was prospering: in 1959 he was promoted to Reader in History at Birkbeck College in London. He worked as the jazz critic for the New Statesman, and in the same year Penguin published his wide-ranging account ofThe Jazz Scene.
The industry of culture
Eric Hobsbawm and the predicament of ‘high culture’
Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century
by Eric Hobsbawm
Little, Brown, $50 hb, 344 pp, 9781408704288
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Stuart Macintyre is the Ernest Scott Professor of History at the University of Melbourne. He is a co-editor of The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 4, 1800–1945, which is to appear later this year, and is currently working on a history of postwar reconstruction.
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