The late British historian A.J.P. Taylor said Hobsbawm’s work was distinguished by precise explanations of what happened and his interest in ordinary people.
“Most historians, by a sort of occupational disease, are interested only in the upper classes and assume that they themselves would have been numbered among the privileged if they had lived a century or two ago — a most unlikely assumption,” Taylor wrote. “Mr. Hobsbawm places his loyalty firmly on the other side of the barricades.”
I never met him but, over the years, I have often turned (and returned) to his historical work in my teaching and research. Particularly important, at least for me, have been his four-volume Age of. . . series, his early Social Bandits and Primitive Rebels, the later Industry and Empire: From 1750 to the Present Day, and his presentation of Marx’s Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations.
Hobsbawm was also a participant-observer in the Golden Age of jazz. Under the pseudonym of Francis Newton, he wrote The Jazz Scene, which in my view is more memorable and insightful for his analysis of the prehistory and commercial side of jazz than for his reviews of the music itself.