William Hardy McNeill

William Hardy McNeill

William Hardy McNeill

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William Hardy McNeill (born October 31, 1917) is an American world historian and author and is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1947.


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. He obtained his PhD at Cornell University in 1947.

McNeill's most popular work, completed early in his career, is 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 contradistinction to Oswald Spengler's view of discrete, independent civilizations.

McNeill is a recipient of the 2009 National Humanities Medal, awarded on February 25, 2010 at a White House ceremony. The NEH citation recognizes him "for 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...
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