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Neil Hanson is one of the most interesting people we know. He’s written books on World War I, the Spanish Armada, and the fire that destroyed London in 1666. He once teamed up with history’s greatest treasure hunter to tell the story of retrieving over $100 million in gold from a sunken Soviet ship in the arctic. He’s been the owner of the highest Inn in all of Great Britain. And, in 1999 he published a book called The Custom of the Sea, which tells the story of a shipwrecked crew that was put on trial in London after resorting to cannibalism. The ship, which fell victim to forty-foot waves off the coast of Africa in 1884, was named the Mignonette, and Hanson’s book was so good that in 2004 it inspired an album by an up-and-coming group of musicians called The Avett Brothers.
How could someone turn a gruesome tale of cannibalism into an inspirational work of history? How do you track down the sources that allow you to answer so many questions about history? And how does one individual accomplish so much in one life? In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers in our conversation with Neil Hanson.
-Neil Hanson’s Website