Interview of Michael Mann by Alan Macfarlane 18th July 2005

0:05:07 Introduction; born August 1942 in Manchester but moved to Northumberland when I was five; father a salesman for an asbestos company; at ten moved back to Rochdale; went to Manchester Grammar School; middle child with elder sister and younger brother; influenced by father with whom I discussed and argued; first political experience was as Liberal in Rochdale, like father; mother loving and warm; unhappy when I told her at thirteen that I was an atheist; father highly intelligent, books in the house, and encouraged education for the boys

3:20:00 At school, better at arts subjects than sciences; history was main interest but influenced by father to read law at Oxford; did one term of law and switched to history; went to University College in 1960; at Oxford did a lot of politics, first in the Liberal Club and then the Labour Club; didn't work terribly hard except in the last year and got a second class degree; not terribly stimulated by the Oxford history course; impressed by Isaiah Berlin, but the course seemed old-fashioned; most interested in special subject which was the French Revolution; now working on empires and was taught by David Fieldhouse whose books I am now reading, but at nineteen he left me cold; I had no thought of doing research although wanted to stay another year in Oxford because of girlfriend, Jill Ditchburn; so did the diploma in Public and Social Administration; married at twenty-two; Jill Mann who became Professor of English Literature at Cambridge; I was going to be a probation officer but in the department of Social Administration, Halsey offered him empirical research for General Foods Corporation which would lead to PhD in Sociology; accepted; had done sociology course in the diploma, and Peter Collison who taught me stimulated me most

8:40:14 The factory moved from Birmingham to Banbury, a well-studied place; did before and after interviews of workers and managers; first survey had to done within six months of start of PhD; knowing very little had to draw up questionnaire and work out how to analyse interviews; also had to learn about computer techniques which were just moving from counter sorters to paper tape data; very much self-taught and struggling to get things done; hard work; mixture of industrial relations and family and community; my dissertation was first referred; examined by Jean Floud and Norman Denis; experience of viva; by then had moved to Cambridge as a research officer in the department of Applied Economics working with John Goldthorpe and Robert Blackburn; in that year produced small book 'Consciousness and Action in the Western Working Class'; description of the book; moved on to do some impirical research on the Peterborough labour market with Bob Blackburn; team of interviewers interviewed about 900 workers in six different companies; at the same time rewriting thesis; Goldthorpe moved to Oxford and took over as my supervisor from Peter Collison and Alan Fox; heard that Goldthorpe insisted that Jean Floud be removed as examiner so got PhD; learnt a lot about sociology from Goldthorpe

16:24:00 Spent four years in Cambridge; political views changing and became convinced that problem of cold war didn't have much to do with capitalism or socialism, but rivalry between great powers; offered assistant lectureship in Cambridge in what became S.P.S; very first publication was an article in American Sociological Review; secondary analysis of a lot of survey data in Britain and U.S. about the extent to which lower class people accepted the inequalities in society; developed notion of pragmatic acceptance of reality; at interview for job showed the article which I'd got that day; did not take the job as persuaded to go to Essex University by David Lockwood; stayed from 1970 to 1977; at interview asked if I would teach interdisciplinary course on the enlightenment; also taught classical sociological theory which I continue to do today; Essex good, students questioning, thought that sociology might provide the answer to questions on the meaning of life; stimulating colleagues and time for self-development; 1972 wrote paper for myself contrasting Marx and Weber with idea of writing a book on this with some empirical case studies, one on Roman Empire, one on feudalism and one contemporary; gradually turned into 'The Sources of Social Power'; took the further step of separating the military from the political;gradually case studies became bigger with linking historical passages; got too big and separated it into two volumes

26:01:20 During this time wife still in Cambridge and commuting life put strain on marriage; broke up in about 1975; went to L.S.E. in 1977 as Reader in Research Methods; puzzles me how I got the job with few publications; in Colchester had been politically active in the Labour party, trying to keep the right and left of the party together; wrote a Fabian pamphlet at that time; moved to Lambeth; one replacement at Essex was Nicky Hart and we overlapped for one term; she was wife of Keith Hart, then at Yale, but she became my second wife; she had daughter Louise, then aged two, and we have two other children, Gareth and Laura; had nice family life in Dedham, Essex, from where I commuted to London

31:33:00 At L.S.E. the big experience for me was not really within the sociology department; not a happy department due to Donald Macrae and Terence Morris who had forced Ernest Gellner out; intolerant of new ideas; people of own age had unofficial seminars which Ernest Gellner, John Hall and I ran called 'Patterns of History'; invited those we wanted to hear and would have a meal together afterwards; invited such persons as Colin Renfrew, Keith Hopkins etc.; at this time John, Ernest and I were all writing books of broad theoretical history at this time; almost the best experience I have had though there has been an comparable one at U.C.L.A.; at L.S.E. from 1977-87; in 1985 got together with someone in the International Relations department and was going to do a course in globalisation but blocked by Macrae and Morris; blocked for promotion at about the same time; told I could apply independently from department which I did; got a chair, but before this had been hired by U.C.L.A.; first volume of 'Sources of Social Power' came out in 1986; had decided to separate it into two volumes about 1984; first volume went from prehistoric time to before the Industrial Revolution; thought the book might sink without trace so contacted everybody I knew in America and asked to give talks; by the time the lecture tour happened the book was very successful but Americans assumed I was looking for a job; U.C.L.A. and University of Virginia offered both Nicky and I full time positions; took U.C.L.A. offer and have been there ever since

38:55:12 At U.C.L.A. have had comparable experience to Gellner and Hall seminar; Bob Brenner, Perry Anderson and I are the leading people; we invite people we want to hear from all over the world; have a theme each year and it is interdisciplinary; although I consider myself a sociologist, have never been happy to be trapped inside a discipline; in 1994 I went to Madrid for a year; at that time a little unhappy in California, mainly about the education of our children; after Madrid had a sabbatical in England and looked for jobs here; Nicky started a job at University of East London chairing the department and I was offered jobs by Essex and L.S.E.; Nicky was unhappy in her job so we decided to move back to California; 1998 took American citizenship so have dual nationality; Los Angeles a stimulating and interesting place

42:29:17 Having produced volume 1 of 'Sources of Social Power', volume 2 followed in 1993 which went to 1914; volume 3 remains unfinished; in Spain decided to work on chapter on fascism; this turned into two books, the first 'Fascists' (2004) and the second, 'The Dark Side of Democracy' (2005) explaining ethnic cleansing; I am waiting to see what reaction is; in 2002 began to write a book on Bush American foreign policy, 'Incoherent Empire', which was almost entirely written before the invasion of Iraq; came out September 2003; description of book; invited to be Pitt Professor in Cambridge and decided to give lectures on modern empires; first one on why the Europeans are so imperialistic; the second asks did the British Empire do anyone any good? The third was a comparison of Japan and the U.S. in Asia and fourth on the American Empire today; am expanding these mainly by looking at American foreign policy from the beginning; this period in Cambridge has allowed me to research and write; the result will be published end of 2006

47:04:10 Working methods; things have changed with computers; at U.C.L.A. can order books from the library by computer and have them delivered to my office; I do an enormous amount of pillaging of books for factual material; have taken extensive notes; have just discovered a new technique of library raiding from book reviews in journals on the web; all my notes are in my laptop; had a basic methodology in my raiding which was that I would carry on reading until I was only changing the details; looking at Japanese Empire and trying to see if it was a series of accidents or a probability

51:39:20 Writing a book usually takes time, six years rather than six months; material for 'Incoherent Empire' came largely from the web; try and begin to write at quite an early stage as a way of organising the notes, then rewrite and rewrite; don't write at any particular time of day; my wife is a morning person and I have been influenced by that; used to be a 9-5 worker; tragedy of a relatively successful academic is the older you get the harder you work; still play tennis and have just taken up golf; used to do gardening; when I was a traditional sociologist I used to read history books as a diversion, now this is a part of my work

54:12:00 Global history; owe most to Max Weber and then to Karl Marx; remember being impressed by Owen Lattimore, William McNeal, Eisenstadt; world history difficult to do and would never recommend young people to start doing what I am doing; have to do get an idea of what detailed research is first and later take a comparative view; I haven't done any collaborative work since that with Bob Blackburn and am a bit of a loner so not aware of enormous influences

57:25:17 After the book on empires, still determined to write volume 3 of 'Sources of Social Power' to bring it up to date; maybe there will be a volume 4 on theory; Gary Runciman, Perry Anderson and Wallerstein.