William Hardy McNeill (born October 31, 1917) is an American world historian and author, particularly noted for his writings on Western civilization. He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago where he has taught since 1947.
William McNeill was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the son of theologian and educator John T. McNeill. He was educated at the University of Chicago, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in 1938, and Master of Arts (M.A.) in 1939. In 1941 he was drafted into the U.S. army and served in World War II in the European theater. After the war, he obtained his PhD at Cornell University in 1947. In that same year he began teaching at the University of Chicago, which became his home throughout his professional career.
McNeill's most popular work, completed early in his career, is The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (University of Chicago Press, 1963). The book explored world history in terms of the effect of different old world civilizations on one another, and especially the dramatic effect of Western civilization on others in the past 500 years. It had a major impact on historical theory, especially its emphasis on cultural fusions, in contrast to Oswald Spengler's view of discrete, independent civilizations. Rise of the West won the 1964 U.S. National Book Award in History and Biography. In 1976 Mcneill wrote Plagues and Peoples, an important early contribution to the impact of disease on human history and contributed to the emergence of environmental history as a discipline.
McNeill was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama on February 25, 2010. The citation recognizes "his exceptional talent as a teacher and scholar at the University of Chicago and as an author of more than twenty books, including The Rise of the West, which traces civilizations through 5,000 years of recorded history."
McNeill is the father of historian J. R. McNeill with whom he co-authored The Human Web: A Bird's-eye View of World History (New York: Norton, 2003). McNeill was married to Elizabeth Darbishire until her death in 2006, and he is now retired.
- (2011). Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, 2nd Edition (with Jerry H. Bentley, David Christian et al., editors). 6 volumes. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group. ISBN 9781933782652.
- (2009). Summers Long Ago: On Grandfather's Farm and in Grandmother's Kitchen. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group. ISBN 9781933782713.
- (2005). The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian's Memoir. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
- (2005). Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History (with Jerry H. Bentley, David Christian et al., editors). 5 volumes. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group. ISBN 9780974309101.
- (2003). The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History (with J. R. McNeill). New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-92568-4
- (1998). A World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 4th edition. (First published 1967). ISBN 0-19-511616-X
- (1995). Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- (1992). The Global Condition: Conquerors, Catastrophes, & Community. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- (1991). Hutchins' University. A Memoir of the University of Chicago. 1929-1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-56170-4
- (1989). Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506335-X
- (1982). The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-56157-7
- (1980). The Human Condition: An Ecological and Historical View. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05317-0
- McNeill, William H. (March 1979), Historical Patterns of Migration (with comment & reply), Current Anthropology 20 (1): 95–102, doi:10.1086/202206, JSTOR 2741864, PMID 11630845
- (1976). Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-12122-9.
- (1974). Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1081-1797. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-56149-3.
- (1974). The Shape of European History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-501807-3
- (1973). "The Ecumene: Story of Humanity". Harper & Row. 0065520424
- (1963). The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Revised edition, 1991. ISBN 978-0-226-56141-7.
- (1949). History of Western Civilization: A Handbook. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 6th edition, 1986. ISBN 978-0-226-56159-2.
- "The Introduction of the Potato into Ireland," The Journal of Modern History Vol. 21, No. 3, September 1949
- (1947). The Greek Dilemma War And Aftermath J. B. Lippincott Company, London: Victor Gollancz, 1947
- McNeill, William H. (March 1979), Historical Patterns of Migration, Current Anthropology 20 (1): 95–102, doi:10.1086/202206, JSTOR 2741864, PMID 11630845. (Biographical details from bottom of page 95.)
- "A germ of an idea – University of Chicago Magazine". Magazine.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2013-02-07.
- "National Book Awards – 1964". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- "President Obama Awards 2009 National Humanities Medals". NEH News Archive. National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 2012-03-18.
- McNeill, William (2005). The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian's Memoir. Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press. p. 52.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: William Hardy McNeill|
- The Changing Shape of World History, William H. McNeill, Paper originally presented at the History and Theory World History Conference, March 25–26, 1994.
- Decline of the West?, William H. McNeill, Review of Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. The New York Review of Books. January 9, 1997.
- J.H. Elliott (16 May 1974), Where We Started, The New York Review of Books, retrieved 2010-05-26 — joint review of four books including two by McNeill
- McNeill, William H. "Discrepancies among the Social Sciences." Conspectus of History 1.7 (1981): 35-45.