Media families; 10. The Hobsbawms

Eric Hobsbawm (historian) begat Andy (Internet expert) and Julia (public relations director)

To his critics, the historian Eric Hobsbawm is that incorrigible old communist, who failed to say sorry - sorry for being on the wrong side for too long, for not leaving the party after the suppression of the uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, sorry for overlooking the horrors of Stalinism. Yet, to his more numerous admirers, Hobsbawm, 80 in June, is an intellectual giant. His trilogy - The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital and The Age of Empire, - makes European history since the French Revolution readable and understandable and his last major work, Age of Extremes, persuasively shapes a narrative of the 20th century as a story of socialism saving capitalism.

Both detractors and supporters would, however, agree that this son of a bourgeois Jewish family, who fled to Britain from Berlin when he was 14, is more than an obscure academic. Eric Hobsbawm has the lean, gangling frame and shock of grey hair of the mad professor. But, glamourised by the New York Review of Book's set and at home in the Hampstead habitat, his elegant use of language has always made him part of the media world. He and his wife, Marlene, 65, were never prone to left-wing asceticism and love to entertain. (She is, herself, a successful author of music books and sister of Walter Schwarz, a former Guardian journalist).

Under the pseudonym, Francis Newton, Hobsbawm revealed another indulgence, when he wrote The Jazz Scene in 1959. But his political writings brought him most to the public's notice. His famous 1978 article, "Forward March of Labour Halted?", published in Marxism Today, was the first to recognise, before Margaret Thatcher came to power and years beforeTony Blair's New Labour, that the left was in serious decline and could be revived only if it achieved far wider social appeal.

Neither of the Hobsbawm children, Julia, 32, and Andy, 34, has followed in their father's academic footsteps. Indeed, they don't have a university degree between them. But each is considered bright and successful - Julia runs her own PR company and Andy runs a New York company which creates Web sites on the Internet. The rise and rise of the Hobsbawm family is, indeed, a perfect match for the recent history of the Labour party - Marxist antecedent produces offspring whose success is rooted in presentation and computer-based wizardry.

It's an outcome which probably neither surprises nor worries Eric Hobsbawm. They have excelled in modern media which might well have attracted their eclectic father too, had he been born when the Beatles rather than the Bolsheviks were getting to be really big.

Julia Hobsbawm, Labour luvvie and a Blair supporter of the apolitical variety, co-founded her own PR company, Hobsbawm Macaulay, in 1993 and does a roaring trade, specialising in good causes such as the CRE, the Runnymede Trust, Refuge and Emily's List, the campaign to encourage more women to stand for Parliament. Her parents' passion for socialising and networking endowed her with many skills and the surname, she'll admit, is a huge advantage; most people imagine she has several degrees.

Edward Bernays, founding father of public relations, described it as the art of "telling the truth persuasively". Julia Hobsbawm claims this moral high ground, as, no doubt, her father does for his own discipline. Indeed the links between the professions are explicitly made in Stewart Ewen's recent book, PR - A Social History of Spin, which locates the origins of PR in Roosevelt's attempts to galvanise support for the New Deal. Guess who Ewen quotes about the crisis in capitalism caused by the Depression? Eric Hobsbawm. But now we know that it wasn't socialism that saved capitalism. It was public relations.

Andy Hobsbawm is the more low key of the siblings, who after a period in an unsuccessful rock band, the Tin Gods (a cross between the Psychedelic Furs and the Waterboys) hit his stride as director of New York-based Online Magic, which has created Web sites on the Internet for clients such as Channel 4 (featuring an animated Michael Grade in braces puffing a large cigar). Like his father, though, Andy is also trying to make sense of British politics. His greatest innovation so far? Britain's first and critically acclaimed general election Web site - GE97 at

Jack O'Sullivan

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
footballBut the Newcastle United midfielder's news has 'left his mistress furious'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Financial Controller

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is a busy and varied role w...

Senior Business Development Manager

£60-70k fixed, double OTE uncapped: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Senior Bus...

Ad Operations Executive

30,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: My client is a global name within the ente...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style