Reasons to read (Quality) Newspapers – Neil Wynn
3rd October 2012
Every year I try to persuade students to read newspapers to see the variety of ways in which History appears in the public domain. Usually I point them to reviews of history texts or of historical literature – see Max Hastings’ review in the Sunday Times (16th October)of Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 for a good summary of the academic debates and issues on the causes of the Great War, or various reviews of John Ridley’s A life of Edward VII for a quick introduction to historical biography, issues of royalty and public opinion, and so on; but also the several reviews of Hilary Mantel’s sequel to Wolf Hall, the Booker Prize nominated Bringing Up the Bodies, for insights into the Tudor period often rather at odds with media images – the dark and frightening aspects of intrigue in the court of Henry VIII – that continued in the Elizabethan period as recent studies of the spies and conspiracies of her reign show us.
This week the quality press (Guardian, Independent, Times, etc.) provide even more historical material with the lengthy obituaries and discussion of the importance of Eric Hobsbawm , a Marxist historian who influenced many students – including some of those who now teach at Gloucestershire ! – with his studies of popular protest in Primitive Rebels (1959) and Bandits (1964) or his massive four-volume study of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from the Age of Revolutions (1962) and Industry and Empire (1968) through to the Age of Extremes (1994). Like some other historians we could mention, Hobsbawm loved aspects of African American music and he wrote about jazz under the pseudonym of Francis Newton. Even more significant was his influence on political thinking and the rise of New Labour and Ed Miliband acknowledged this in his speech to the Labour Party conference today. Hobsbawm’s life and work demonstrate the importance of History to us all, and you can learn a lot from reading about him in the press this week.