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Sat, Feb. 11th, 2012, 01:45 am

Eric HobsbawmBandits

Eric Hobsbawm is a British left-wing historian who may be more famous about his Marxist views about 20th century history and right-wing accusations leveled on him. In this particular book he concentrates on what he originally called "social bandits", Robin Hood-like people that at least have a kind of reputation.

Note that this book is based of the 4th edition (first edition is from the 1969). At least in this edition he does not desscribe bandity as a social movement compared to labour unions. Hobsbawm also does not approve of the attitude that all crime would be form of social protest.

Of course, to many criminals committing crimes it is sort of a job. And the fact is that brigands usually rob the rich because the poor have nothing worth taking. Some of them may also be descendants of societies where seasonal raids used to be commonplace.
However, the social bandit is often an outlaw only in the eyes of higher authority – they remain members of their original communities and receive their support. Some of them have been rebels against imperial authorities that still have had the support of the local population or their ethnic group.

Like Robin Hood, social bandit may challenge the local authority (the sheriff of Nottingham) but often does not challenge the higher authority (Richard the Lionheart). They are not revolutionaries that could threaten the ultimate status quo or social order.
And then there are the genuine bandits – Jesse James etc – who have gained posthumour philanthropic reputation. It is often a baseless one. Posthumous reputation may also omit or belittle the real atrocities the bandit has committed – or exaggerate them.

Because the posthumous reputation is a narrative, the social bandit always have a reason or motive for their actions – revenge, vendetta, ideological fervor, rebellion, ethnic defense. That includes even the most bloodthirsthy bandits which have no reason to avoid killing, even for their own amusement. And their legends give even more reasons.

Sat, Feb. 11th, 2012 08:46 am (UTC)

Could you check the index for me as see if Geoffrey Trease's Bows Against the Barons is indexed?

Sat, Feb. 11th, 2012 12:30 pm (UTC)

Can't seem to find any reference to it. Note that the version I have is a Finnish translation that is supposed to be based of the 1999 edition.