Eric Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1917, and subsequently lived in Vienna but moved with his sister to stay with an uncle in Berlin after his parents died during the Depression. He moved with his uncle to England and obtained a place reading history at Cambridge University where he became the last pre-war editor of the student magazine Granta. As a student Hobsbawm joined the Communist party, but after the war this affiliation led to him being turned down for a number of Oxbridge jobs, but he managed to obtain a post at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London.

Hobsbawm's first work Primitive Rebels, a study of banditry was published in 1959, and he also began a jazz column in the New Statesman. Then in 1962 the first of his "Age of" series the Age of Revolution 1789-1848 was published, a readable and influential account of the numerous social and poltical upheavals of this period. He would follow this up with the Age of Capital 1848-1875 in 1975, and the Age of Empire 1875-1914, completed in 1987. By the late seventies, Hobsbawm was becoming well known as a social and political commentator, and remained a noted figure on the left. He would become an unofficial intellectual conscience of the Labour party in the eighties, and helped Neil Kinnock steer the party away from the influence of Tony Benn and his followers. However remaining a Communist, he is not a cheerleader of Tony Blair's neutered new Labour.

In 1994 Hobsbawm published the final volume of his quartet the Age of Extremes 1914-1991 - an account of the short twentieth century, which became an international best seller, an account of the competing forces of left and right,from the first world war and the Russian revolution culminating in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Now retired from teaching, his autobiography, Interesting Times was published in 2002.

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