Eric Hobsbawm

2003 Balzan Prize for European History since 1900

For his brilliant analysis of the troubled history of twentieth-century Europe and for his ability to combine in-depth historical research with great literary talent.

Winner of the Balzan Prize 2003 dedicated to European History since 1900, Eric Hobsbawm (*1917 – †2012) has concentrated his attention on the history of Europe throughout his entire scholarly career, which began in the 1950s, the period when historiography found itself face to face with ideological influences. Social movements, rebels against society and revolutionaries have always been the subjects of his studies, and some of his most brilliant works bear witness to this: Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement (1959) and Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour (1964).

He has used the English working class, French labour movements and trade unions as the models to explain the evolution of the world of labour and to trace out the main lines of a social history. His major work consists of three volumes on “The long Nineteenth Century”: The Age of Revolution 1789-1848 (1962); The Age of Capital 1848-1875 (1975); The Age of Empire 1875-1914 (1987). The Age of Extremes, The short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (1994) followed. In these four volumes, he retraces the history of the developments and social revolts in Europe from the French Revolution to the end of European Communism. His work concludes – temporarily – with a long autobiography, Interesting Times (2002), which tells the story of a life that virtually coincides with the past century. Here, the author describes the reasons, problems and encounters related to his membership in the Communist party, and condemns the savagery of Stalinism, officially recognised in 1974. The book masterfully reflects upon and interprets the myths, ideologies, beliefs and expectations of a conflictual epoch. With the talent of a great storyteller, Eric Hobsbawm tells us of his hopes and his regrets about the fall.

Eric Hobsbawm has shared his knowledge and his convictions with three generations of mainly British and American students, and with others from many other countries. Like the 1979 Balzan Prizewinner Ernest Labrousse in particular, he has contributed to the dignity and enrichment of social history.

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Fondazione Internazionale Premio Balzan