Wednesday 03 October 2012
Further to yesterday's obituary of Eric Hobsbawm, in 1952 and 1953 it was my privilege - a word he often used in various contexts – to be supervised by Eric, as an undergraduate, a raw youth straight from a tank crew in the British Army of the Rhine. Unlike a number of distinguished don colleagues, he required one's essay to be delivered to his rooms at least three days before the submission date. The result was that he had time to read it more than cursorily and knew exactly the points he thought it was worth pursuing. No tutor could have been more dismissive of irrelevance or cant, and more direct in getting to the substance of any historical issue.
Hobsbawm epitomised rigour. Eighteen-year-olds who had come straight from school and whose National Service had been deferred told me that he frightened them. I'm not surprised; he was very formidable indeed. But Hobsbawm was quite superb with those of us who had gone through two years' National Service, perhaps in Korea, and especially those in my position who had served in BAOR, and travelled round Germany in the early 1950s. His knowledge of German history and places was prodigious. He never flaunted his communism or Marxism – and I think that he was not only stimulating for, but was also stimulated by, the old Etonian contingent who were kings at the time.
Half a century after I had journeyed to his room in the early evenings – he had a good taste in sherry – he and his wife came to dinner with me at the House of Commons. Undiminished, he exuded a critical curiosity in his late 80s that had been his hallmark as a young Cambridge don.
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- 2 Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
- 3 Welcome to Cameroon, where drinking Baileys can lead to imprisonment
- 4 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 5 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
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Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
David Haines beheading: David Cameron says Britain will hunt down Isis 'monsters' shown in video murdering aid worker
Piers Morgan attempts to save the Union by promising to go back to the US if Scotland votes 'No' to independence
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke
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