Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm (1917 – 2012) was a British historian of the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism and nationalism. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt to Englishman Leopold Percy Hobsbaum and Austrian, Neely Grn. A clerk misspelled the child’s name, giving Eric Hobsbawm instead of Hobsbaum.
After WWI, the family settled in Vienna where they struggled financially. In 1929, Leopold died at the age of 48. Less than three years later, Nelly also died; she was only 36. When Nelly first became ill at the end of 1929, Eric's sister, Nancy was sent to say with relatives in Berlin; Eric's uncle had a job with Universal Films. Eric, however, was invited to stay in Lancashire, England with his mother's sister, Mimi. In London, Eric won a scholarship to Cambridge University, graduating in 1939 and going on to earn a Masters in 1942 and Ph.D. in 1951. He served in the British Army from 1939 to 1946 and then began teaching at Birkbeck College in 1947. He retired in 1982 but continued to work as a visiting professor at various American and British universities.
A life-long Marxist, his socio-political convictions influenced the character of his work. In 1998, he was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour. He was President of Birkbeck, University of London, from 2002 until he died.