I’d like to write about the foolishness of trying to cram all the work into 3 days, so I can record at the weekend, but honestly, my brain hurts too much.
Instead, here’s the first page of the first book I had to read and then write about for my history degree. It’s from the Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, in which esteemed Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm argues that the period from 1914-1991 saw the catastrophic failure of all political and economic philosophies, including free market capitalism, communism and nationalism. He also posits that all art and culture created was the absolute sucky worst. (Oldmanyellingatcloud.jpg)
Even as a nervous first year in no way equipped for hardcore university and with no real concept of anything, I found Hobsbwm a bit odd. In his previous works, he’d painted a picture of progress through the 18th and 19th centuries, inexorably leading to a culmination in…something. And because that ….something… didn’t come to pass, he entirely writes off a large part of our recent past. He never quite says it, but his disappointment that communism failed so badly colours much of what he concludes.
I idly picked up this book today, after a meeting in our work library where we’d had some discussion of that horrific Trump news conference yesterday. And, many years after I should have written this in an essay, it occured to me where Hobsbawm goes wrong. He’s so wrapped up in his theory, he creates a historical world to fit into it. And he’s so close to the events he’s describing, he doesn’t have any comparative historical perspective. He takes the 20th century personally, and writes about it like an ex who’s just dumped it. Well-written, compelling but not history.
Do I have a point? Just some vague ones. There’s no way I could ever have come up with any of this as a first-year and maybe I shouldn’t have been expected to. But, go read Hobsbawm. He is, at the very least, hugely entertaining.
I did not expect this to get so long. Man, wait till I get on to Nazis.