The industry of culture

Eric Hobsbawm and the predicament of ‘high culture’

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.

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Published in February 2014 no. 358