What the Editors Are Reading

Everyone to Bernie Sanders’ right gasped in 1994 when radical British historian Eric Hobsbawm argued that Communist regimes who murdered millions “would still have been worth backing” had there been a “chance of a new world being born in great suffering.” The diabolically deranged never connect maniacal theory to deadly results. We can’t psychoanalyze Hobsbawm, who died in 2012. But I haven’t found a better source for understanding leftism’s sheer malevolence than his 1987 book, The Age of Empire: 1875-1914.

This work, the third volume in Hobsbawm’s well-known tetralogy ranging from the French Revolution to 1991—when his delusions should have been swept into history’s dust bin—jams four decades of geopolitical complexity into the procrustean bed of imperialism. Hobsbawm’s erudition and wide-ranging, multilingual research shine throughout the series, which only adds to readers’ consternation as to how he could have been so wrong, for…ever. He mocks Catholicism’s alleged “total rejection of the ideology of reason and progress.” He dismisses the 19th century U.S. as “militantly imperialist,” well before it earned that calumny in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you can ignore Hobsbawm’s hyperbole, in Empire he provides a factual thematic history of the period and its economic development, even as his...

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