My father died at the age of 95 with scores of global editions of his books in print, countless honorary doctorates and visiting fellowships and something close to a cult following among people of all classes, ages and types. He had political enemies in death as he had in life – he was resolutely a Marxist historian and never relinquished his membership of the Communist party – but mostly people seemed as upset as we were, which was a comfort. In the hours after he died, while the Twitter feeds lit up and the news agencies rang in alongside relatives, I phoned through a death notice to The Times. The young man taking copy on the phone sounded stressed: he asked me to repeat the credit card number several times and then blurted out suddenly that he had read history at university and had loved my father’s books. Former students rang in tears from time zones which suggested they had woken to the news and had acted on impulse.