Writing in The New Yorker last month, the journalist Jon Lee Anderson posed a difficult and probably unanswerable question: “Does Henry Kissinger have a conscience?” Anderson’s query was prompted by the release earlier this summer of classified documents that shed new light on US involvement in Latin America during the 1970s. Specifically, the papers indicate that Kissinger – who served as Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford – tacitly encouraged Argentina’s then military government to torture and kill its opponents. “If there are things that have to be done, do them quickly,” Kissinger told the Argentinian Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti in 1976. “The quicker you succeed the better.”

This disclosure would not have surprised the late Eric Hobsbawm, who spent a sizeable if largely overlooked portion of his career as an academic and historian detailing Washington’s “neo-colonial” policies in the region. Viva La Revolucion is a collection of Hobsbawm’s essays and articles on Latin America stretching over four decades from 1960 to 2002. According to his publisher, it is also the last posthumous anthology of his work that we are likely to see: Hobsbawm left instructions for its publication, along with a separate volume, Fractured Times, shortly before he died in 2012.

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For as long as I’ve been aware of books, I’ve been aware of Tom Nairn’s The Break-Up of Britain. When I was growing up, there were at least two copies – separate editions: the original from 1977 and a later volume from 1981 with a postscript on Thatcherism – lodged on my dad’s bookshelves. It was the later volume, with its distinctive black and yellow jacket design, that first caught my attention.

As I got older and began to delve into them, I was quietly thrilled to find my dad’s name – Stephen Maxwell – among those cited by Nairn, alongside Gordon Brown and Hamish Henderson, in the acknowledgements. But it wasn’t until my late teens that I really began to engage with – or properly comprehend – their contents.

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