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How to Change the World – WSJ.com

08/23/2011

In 2003, the New York Times declared Eric Hobsbawm “one of the great British historians of his age, an unapologetic Communist and a polymath whose erudite, elegantly written histories are still widely read in schools here and abroad.” The Spectator, a right-leaning British magazine, gushed that Hobsbawm is “arguably our greatest living historian—not only Britain’s, but the world’s.” The Nation anointed him “one of Aristotle’s ‘men of virtue.’ ”

That the 94-year-old Mr. Hobsbawm has long championed dictatorial regimes hasn’t diminished his standing among the intelligentsia or within the establishment he so obviously loathes. In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon him a Companion of Honour—”In action faithful and in honour clear.” But even many of Mr. Hobsbawm’s admirers find his slippery defenses of communism discomfiting …

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