John Gray

Evasion Tactics

Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the 20th Century

By

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Speaking with the Italian journalist Antonio Polito in an extended interview published as The New Century (2000), Eric Hobsbawm explained why he confined his work as a historian primarily to the 19th century. Writing 20th-century history would have required him to deal with the Soviet Union, which he was not inclined to do:

It is clear that scholars who were critical of communism have less hesitation in studying phenomena like the gulags, while a communist historian would certainly prefer to avoid it … I have tended to avoid dealing with it directly, because I knew that if I had, I would have had to have written things that would have been difficult for a communist to say without affecting my political activity and the feelings of my comrades. This is why I chose to become a nineteenth-century historian rather than a twentieth-century one.

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