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Q&A with Greg Grandin, longlisted for 'The Empire of Necessity'

Q&A with Greg Grandin, longlisted for 'The Empire of Necessity'

Greg Grandin
Samuel Johnson Prize
non- fiction

How does it feel to reach the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize?

Well, thrilled. But I don’t want to get my hopes up since I see that Ladbrokes has 'The Empire of Necessity' at very long odds, 16-1.

What research did you do for writing your book?

The research was extensive, and basically mapped on to the sprawling itinerary of trans-Atlantic slavery. I worked in archives, libraries, and museums in nine countries, including in Spain (in Madrid, Seville, and Calañas, the Andalusian village where Benito Cerreño was born), Uruguay, Argentina (Buenos Aires and Mendoza, Alejandro de Aranda’s home town), Chile (Santiago, Valparaiso and Concepción), Peru (Lima and Huacho), Great Britain (Liverpool and London), Senegal (Dakar), France (Aix-en-Provence) and the United States (Boston, Duxbury, Amasa Delano’s birthplace, Albany, New York, Providence, and Washington DC, among other places). Some of these places have only a glancing relationship to slavery, through this particular history. Others, like Seville, Buenos Aires, Port Saint-Louis, Lima, Boston, and Liverpool, were central hubs in a network that financed, administered, and profited from the slave trade, a vast yet surprisingly intimate network

How do you feel about the status/ popularity of non-fiction books in general?

It’s such a big category, including so many different genres, it is difficult to say. But it seems as if interest in history is holding steady.  

What is your favourite non-fiction book?

I just finished re-reading Janet Malcom’s 'The Journalist and the Murderer', which just might be it.

What are you working on next?

A People’s Obituary of Henry Kissinger.


Greg Grandin is the author of Empire of Necessity (Oneworld)

Photo credit to Sarah Shatz



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