History Doyens: William Hardy McNeill

HISTORY DOYENS

Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

William Hardy McNeill, 7-31-08

What They’re Famous For

William H. McNeill is Robert A. Milikan Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago. He taught at the university from 1947 until his retirement in 1987. McNeill is also a past president of the American Historical Association (1984-1985). McNeill has authored over thirty books; his most influential works brought world history to the forefront of academic study. His “seminal” book is The Rise of the West A. History of the Human Community (1963). The book was awarded the National Book Award in 1964 and was “later named one of the 100 best nonfiction books of the twentieth century by the Modern Library.” McNeill was one of “the first contemporary North American historians to write world history, seeking a broader interpretation of human affairs than that which prevailed in his youth.” Some of his other books include Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1097-1797 (1974); Plagues and Peoples (1976); The Metamorphosis of Greece since 1945 (1978); The Human Condition: Art Historical and Ecological View (1980); Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force anal Society since 1000 A.D. (1982); Mythistory and Other Essays (1986); Arnold J. Toynbee, a Life (1989), and The Global Condition: Conquerors, Catastrophes, and Community (1992).

More recently, McNeill is the author of The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History (2003) with his historian son J. R. McNeill, and The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian’s Memoir (2005). His memoir The Pursuit of Truth has been hailed as “A candid, intellectual memoir from one of the most famous and influential historians of our era. The Pursuit of Truth charts the development of McNeill’s thinking and writing over seven decades. At the core of his worldview is the belief that historical truth does not derive exclusively from criticizing, paraphrasing, and summarizing written documents, nor is history merely, a record of how human intentions and plans succeeded or failed.”

Discussing the role of the historian, McNeill has written, “We have an enormous fixation on, what seems to me to be, the naïve idea that truth resides in what somebody wrote sometime in the past. If it’s not written down, it isn’t true. And that’s absurd. But it’s the way historians are trained: you have to have a source, and if you don’t have something you can cite from an original source, in the original language, then you’re not a really good historian, you’re are not scientific, you’re not true.” While he described his role as a professor stating “My job is to bore you and let the hardness of your seat and the warmth of your robe prepare you for what is to come.”

Personal Anecdote

I recognize three critical learning experiences that shaped that work. First was the day I casually picked three bright green newly published volumes of Toynbee, A Study of History from the shelves of Cornell University library in 1940. I was then a graduate student and had more free time for reading than ever before. As a result, I spent the next week enthralled by Toynbee’s world-wide reach. History as previously taught to me shrank into no more than a small part of the human past, and the big book I had set my heart on when still an undergraduate suddenly needed to expand and become a real world history.

Second came in 1951-52 when I spent two years at Chatham House, London under Toynbee’s supervision writing a history of Allied relations 1941-46. I had wangled that appointment in hope of discovering how he went about writing his Study of History, hoping to imitate him. But through frequent lunch time conversations I soon discovered that he was using notes taken years before to compose the later volumes of his magnum opus, and, straining to finish that task, could not afford to pause to learn anything new. That turned me off; and my own experience of writing a 600-page book, America, Britain and Russia: Their Cooperation and Conflict, 1941-46 showed me how to write without taking notes on the basis of the few published memoirs then available and a collection of newspaper clippings maintained by a staff of skilled young women. Simply by asking for appropriate cartons of clippings and spreading them out before me, I could write about the Yalta Conference and other episodes with no time wasted on note taking.

Third came in 1954 when a Ford Foundation grant allowed me to begin writing my projected world history. This required me to decide what really mattered in the human past; and taking notes on what others had said seemed futile. I decided to fall back on reading first and writing afterwards as I had done at Chatham House. I soon discovered that I could remember where I had seen something important for about six weeks, so made it a rule to stop reading for each new chapter after six weeks and start to write with fifty or so books piled on my desk available to consult whenever a footnote seemed appropriate. Without relying on memory so completely, and devoting almost the whole of my waking hours to the task, I could not have written The Rise of the West as quickly as I did. Another grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York made that possible, freeing me from teaching for two quarters for five years, 1957-62, during which time I completed the book.

William McNeill 1964 National Book Award  JPGI should also confess that another serendipitous experience contributed greatly to my actual achievement. In 1955, Gustav von Grunebaum invited me to join him in a seminar at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. The seminar was conducted in German so I had to learn the language as never before, and during the three months I spent in Frankfurt a learned teaching assistant, Fraulein von Dechend guided me through pre-war German scholarship about pre-history and the history of steppe peoples. This required rewriting the first chapters of my book when I got back home and resumed work. In this instance I did use notes taken in Frankfurt so cannot say I dispensed with note- taking entirely.

Finally, I spent a whole year revising and shortening the original manuscript to make it fit into a single volume. I was convinced that multi-volume books are usually consulted, not read through and wanted mine to be read from beginning to end, so the shape of the whole human past, as I understood it, might emerge. Even though, when cutting it back by about 20%, I often felt I was hurting the smoothness and readability of the book, I believe many readers have in fact labored through its 812 pages. So still, believe my butchery was worthwhile, fifty-five years after its initial publication it is still in print and sells several hundred copies a year. It has also been translated into about a dozen different languages, so by any standard it has been a real success, however outmoded it is now becoming.

Quotes

By William Hardy McNeill

  • What such a vision of the future anticipates, in other words, is the eventual establishment of a world-wide cosmopolitanism, which, compared with the confusions and haste of our time, would enjoy a. vastly greater stability. A suitable political frame for such a Society might arise through sudden victory and defeat in war, or piecemeal through a more gradual encapsulation of a particular balance of world power within a growingly effective international bureaucracy. But no matter how it comes, the cosmopolitanism of the future will surely bear a Western imprint. At least in its initial stages, any world state will be an empire of the West. This would be the case even if non- Westerners should happen to hold the supreme controls of world-wide political-military authority for they could only do so by utilizing such origin Western traits as industrialism, Science, and the public palliation of power through advocacy of one or other of the democratic political faiths . Hence “The Rise of the West” may serve as a shorthand description of the upshot of the history of the human community to date.’ Historical parallels to such a stabilization of a confused and chaotic social order are not far to seek. The Roman empire stabilized the violences and uncertainty of the Hellenistic world by monopolizing armed might in a single hand. The Han in ancient China likewise put a quietus upon the disorders of the warring states by erecting an imperial bureaucratic structure which endured, with occasional breakdown and modest amendment, almost to our own day. The warring states of the twentieth century seem headed for a similar resolution of their conflicts , unless, of course, the chiliastic vision that haunts our time really comes true and human history ends with a bang of hydrogen nuclei and a whimper from irradiated humanity.The burden of present uncertainties and the drastic scope of alternative possibilities that have become apparent in our time oppress the minds of many sensitive people. Yet the unexampled plasticity of human affairs should also be exhilarating. Foresight, cautious resolution, sustained courage never before had such opportunities to shape our lives and those of subsequent generations. Good and wise men in all parts of the world have seldom counted for more; for they can hope to bring the facts of life more nearly into accord with the generous ideals proclaimed by all-or almost all-the world’s leaders.The fact that evil men and crass vices have precisely the same enhanced powers should not distract our minds. Rather we should recognize it as the inescapable complement of the enlarged scope for good. Great dangers alone produce great victories; and without the possibility of failure, all human achievement would be savorless. Our world assuredly lacks neither dangers nor the possibility of failure. It also offers a theater for heroism such as has seldom or never been seen before in all history.

    Men some centuries from now will surely look back upon our time as a golden age of unparalleled technical, intellectual, institutional, and perhaps even of artistic creativity. Life in Dernosrhenes’ Athens, in Confucius’ China, and in Mohammed’s Arabia was violent, risky, and uncertain; hopes struggled with fears; greatness teetered perilously on the brim of disaster. We belong in this high company and should count ourselves fortunate to live in one of the great ages of the world. — William H. McNeill in “The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community”

  • Still, what seems wise and true to me seems irrelevant obfuscation to others. Only time can settle the issue, presumably by outmoding my ideas and my critics’ as well. Unalterable and eternal Truth remains like the Kingdom of Heaven, an eschatological hope. Mythistory is what we actually have-a useful instrument for piloting human groups in their encounters with one another and with the natural environment.
    To be a truth-seeking mythographer is therefore a high and serious calling, for what a group of people knows and believes about the past channels expectations and affects the decisions on which their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor all depend. Formal written histories are not the only shapers of a people’s notions about the past; but they are sporadically powerful, since even the most abstract and academic historiographical ideas do trickle down to the level of the commonplace, if they fit both what a people want to hear and what a people need to know well enough to be useful.
    As members of society and sharers in the historical process, historians can only expect to be heard if they say what the people around them want to hear-in some degree. ‘[hey can only be useful if they also tell the people some things they are reluctant to hear-in some degree. Piloting between this Scylla and Charybdis is the art of the serious historian, helping the group he or she addresses and celebrates to survive and prosper in a treacherous and changing world by knowing more about itself and others.
    Academic historians have pursued that art with extraordinary energy and considerable success during the past century. May our heirs and successors persevere and do even better! — William H. McNeill in “Mythistory, or Truth, Myth, History, and Historians”
  • “Its study, shares the ambiguity of events to the full, and often magnifies uncertainties and ignorances into learned arguments between rival schools. Yet such irritating imprecision is inescapable, for it a history were so simple, logical, and straightforward as to make everything that happened fully intelligible, it could not be true. Logical simplicity can only be attained by arbitrarily leaving things out. . . . [Historians] bring gradual modification to their learned tradition more by intuition and usage than by deliberate invention of an interpretive scheme or ideal model. Such an unphilosophic habit of mind, systematically distrustful of elaborately logical categories, makes it hard for the professional historian to answer such deceptively simple but philosophically difficult questions as ‘What is history?”‘ — William H. McNeill in “Arnold J. Toynbee, a Life”
  • “WHY should anyone bother learning about things that happened far away and long ago? Who cares about Cleopatra, Charlemagne, Montezuma or Confucius? And why worry about George Washington, or how democratic government and industrial society arose? Isn’t there quite enough to learn about the world today? Why add to the burden by looking at the past? Historians ought to try to answer such questions by saying what the study of history is good for, and what it cannot do. But since no one can speak for the historical profession as a whole, this essay is no more than a personal statement, commissioned by the American Historical Association in the hope of convincing all concerned that the study of history is indeed worthwhile and necessary for the education of effective citizens and worthy human beings. Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory. As such it can both make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our private lives.[The] study of history may . . . enlarge individual [and] direct experience [so] as to allow some men to become wise; and all men may hope to profit in some degree from a study that enlarges knowledge of the variety of human potentiality and circumstance so directly as history does. . . . Other disciplines and branches of knowledge, of course, have great importance in any practical application of knowledge to society or to individual lives. Historical wisdom more often acts as a brake and moderator than as a motor or guide line for deliberate efforts to change personal and social life. But this constitutes practical wisdom, the fine flower of experience and knowledge, which grows best in a mind that has reflected upon and mastered at least some portion of the vast historical heritage of man-kind.” — William H. McNeill on “Why study history?” American Historical Association, 1985— William H. McNeill, author and historian, spoke about the history of man at the 18th Annual Humanities Festival.About William Hardy McNeill
  • William McNeill, author of The Rise of the West, Plagues and Peoples, and much else, has turned his attention to “the muscular, rhythmic dimension of human sociality” (p. 156) in aspects that have had little scholarly attention, and especially little from sociologists. Here is true interdisciplinary work, involving, besides sociology, history, physiology, and political science…. Serving purposes evil or good, conservative or revolutionary, overcoming alienation or reinforcing the state, “euphoric response to keeping together in time is too deeply implanted in our genes to be exorcized for long. It remains the most powerful way to create or sustain a community that we have at our command.” It needs more of our attention as sociologists, and we must be grateful to William McNeill for identifying it as a field worthy of study. — Nathan Keyfitz, Harvard University Emeritus reviewing “Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History” in Contemporary Sociology, May, 1996
  • World history is coming. This is the message of the World History Association, formed by young historians in 1982 to take up the cause of world history from older scholars who had been fighting a losing battle within the profession for years. Their idol is William H. McNeill. Those who want to know why should read this little collection of his essays, ranging from a piece from 1961 on his discovery of Arnold Toynbee to his presidential address of 1985 to the American Historical Association on the provocative notion of “mythistory.” The main subject, however, is McNeill himself and his intellectual journey toward world history….
    True believers make the best crusaders. Complete faith in these ideas about world history probably was necessary to McNeill in his fight within an unyielding profession. To him world history is a higher history, involving larger human interests and appealing to the better part of ourselves. His version of it, as he frankly concedes, involves specifically American attitudes as well….
    Never mind. McNeill, most importantly, provides much that is convincing in these shining essays to recommend world history to our profession. The rest, the uplifting language about serving peace and saving history in the schools, can be reconciled as expressions of the moral idealism carried along by world history from its ancient origins in religious thought. High ideas just seem to go with the territory. — Gilbert Allardyce, University of New Brunswick, reviewing “Mythistory and Other Essays” in The American Historical Review, Apr., 1987
  • “Mr. McNeill’s erudition is impressive. His account of the effects of major innovations – the invention of chariot warfare around 1,800 B.C., the development of crossbow warfare in China and in Europe, the introduction of gunpowder in the 14th and 15th centuries, changes in artillery design introduced by the French and new methods of iron manufacturing used by the British in the 18th century, the steamships and railroads built in the 19th – is lively and clear. He is particularly impressive when he describes the invention of the “modern routines of army drill” by Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, at the end of the 16th century. That technique not only increased the efficiency of armies in battle but also made it easier for monarchs and for aristocratic officers to command and control armies recruited from the lower classes. Mr. McNeill shows how, in various periods of history, latecomers found it easier to adopt new weapons than the great powers of the day which were burdened by huge obsolescent arsenals. He also emphasizes, as earlier historians have done, the impetus given to industry by the wars of the Napoleonic era and by military technology in 19th-century England. He says that is where the first modern military-industrial complex appeared at the end of the 19th century. – STANLEY HOFFMAN reviewing in the New York Times Book Review “THE PURSUIT OF POWER Technology, Armed Force and Society Since A. D. 1000”, November 28, 1982
  • William H. McNeill began observing and analyzing affairs in Greece more than three decades ago. His continuing interest in the development of this nation has resulted in no less than three books on modern Greece, which taken together provide a sustained and unique commentary on the country. The latest reflects both the fund of knowledge about Greece that McNeill has built up these past thirty years and the broad perspective of historical change that has become the trademark of his writing. The appearance of this work is indeed timely. Events in the country these past ten years have brought changes whose ultimate impact will not be clearly manifested in some instances for several more decades….
    From the author’s survey, which combines history and contemporary observation, there emerges a picture of a people full of contradictions. We see the antipodes of food-deficit and food-producing villages; of the heroic versus the calculating, entrepreneurial spirit; of the secular and the devoutly Orthodox individual; the hill and the plains people; and, finally, of the rural and urban world in Greece. By combining these often conflicting tendencies within their culture the Greeks have produced a vigorous society that is both enduring and unique in McNeill’s estimation.
    This is a work that has something to offer even to those most knowledgeable about modern Greek life. It is a luminous example of how interpreting the past can serve to make the present more intelligible and the future less of an enigma. — Gerasimos Augustinos, University of South Carolina, reviewing “The Metamorphosis of Greece since World War II in the The American Historical Review, Oct., 1979
  • “PROFESSOR McNEILL has gained a well-deserved reputation by writing about the big changes that have shaped the world. In his latest volume devoted to this theme, Plagues and Peoples, he draws attention to the undoubted importance of disease in determining human history. The work is based on a very wide reading of the secondary sources, and brings together a huge range of data likely to be instructive to both professionals and amateurs interested in the history of disease. Professor McNeill develops from this data a coherent interpretation of the relationship between parasitic micro-organisms and human populations which is, in general, accurate. He is especially effective in drawing attention to the relationship between the rise and fall of empires and the devastations of epidemic disease.” — John Norris, University of British Columbia reviewing “PLAGUES AND PEOPLES” in Pacific Affairs, Autumn 1977
  • THE title of this work recalls by contrast The Decline of the West by Spengler. Its subtitle, A History of the Human Community, suggests something even more extensive, if less apocalyptic. It ranges from Palaeolithic Man to the present day, and covers a great deal of the world. And it appears to have the approval of Dr. Arnold Toynbee, though the blurb claims that the author ‘challenges the Spengler-Toynbee view that a number of separate civilisations pursued essentially independent careers’. This is a book, it must be admitted, which awakes admiration that it has been written at all, irrespective of its quality; and it would require a committee to review it. The author, who is Chairman of the Department of History at Chicago University, and a modern historian concerned with the twentieth century, reflects a trend of American education: the broad course of culture-history, in relation to which it is felt that it is better to suffer many errors of detail in specialized fields than to have total ignorance of whole tracts of human experience. — R. J. Hopper, University of Sheffield, reviewing “The Rise of the West” in The Classical Review, Dec., 1964
  • THIS work of major significance deserves the attention particularly of those historians who have had reservations about the rationale or feasibility of world history. The fact that a globally oriented history of mankind should have appeared at this particular time is in itself noteworthy. It represents a return to the his.. toriographic tradition of the Enlightenment, when the idea of universal history fitted in with the prevailing views regarding progress. Prior to that period Western historians had been constrained by the need to fit all historical events into a rigid Biblical context….This century is surely witnessing the decline of the West in certain respects, and its triumph in others; indeed the two processes are interrelated and mutually stimulating. McNeill recognizes this in a footnote on his final page. If this book had appeared in 1914, or even in 1939, the process of decline could have been relegated to a footnote. In 1963 it suggests that the author has become the prisoner of his title and that his subtitle might have been a more functional, if less striking, description of his work. Also the banal and frequently confusing pictograms have no place in a study of such sophistication and stature. In conclusion, the significance of McNeill’s contribution must be underscored. World history hitherto has been left largely to amateurs or to philosophers of history such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. In their search for patterns and general laws they treated the rise and fall of “civilizations” as isolated and self-sufficient events. McNeill has provided here an alternative to this ahistorical disregard of time and space and in doing so has demonstrated that world history is a viable and intellectually respectable field of study. — — L. S. Stavrianos, Northwestern University reviewing “The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community” in The American Historical Review, Apr., 1964
  • “THIS is an excellent survey of the crucially important co-operation of the United States, Great Britain, and Soviet Russia against the Axis Powers from December, 1941, to February, 1945, and of the tragic, though seemingly inevitable, breakdown of that co-operation from February, 1945, to December, 1946. The author writes with clarity and liveliness on the military, political, and economic bases of Allied co-operation, and shows great skill in presenting the plans and factors that determined the course of events. He relies exclusively upon published source-materials and the main secondary accounts available in English, French, and Italian. This limits the extent of “inside” revelations that he is able to make, but he has had the benefit of counsel from persons familiar with the events narrated, who remain anonymous, in accordance with Chatham House policy. The influence of Professor Arnold Toynbee’s teachings is acknowledged. Historians will find especially useful his lucid presentation of the complex questions affecting the conduct of the war and the postwar peace settlements. The sketches of the personal characteristics of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, and of various minor figures are vivid and suggestive… — Sidney Ratner, Rutgers University reviewing “America, Britain, and Russia: Their Co-Operation and Conflict, 1941-1946” in The American Historical Review, Jul., 1954

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions:

University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, instructor, 1947-49, assistant professor, 1949-55, associate professor, 1955-57, professor of history, 1957-69, Robert D. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor of History, 1969–, chair of department, 1961-69.

Visiting Appointments:

Member of summer faculty, University of Washington, 1953 and 1969;
exchange professor, University of Frankfurt, 1956;
John H. Burns Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Hawaii, 1980;
George Eastman Professor, Oxford University, 1980-81.
Demos Foundation, president, chair of board of directors, 1980.
Consultant to Education Research Council, Cleveland, 1965–.
Member of Twentieth Century Fund survey team in Greece, 1947.

Military service: U.S. Army, 1941-46;
assistant military attache to Greece, 1944-46; became major.

Area of Research:

Education:

University of Chicago, B.A., 1938, M.A., 1939; Cornell University, Ph.D., 1947.

Major Publications:

  • Greek Dilemma: War and Aftermath, Lippincott, 1947.
  • History Handbook of Western Civilization, University of Chicago Press, 1953, 4th revised edition, 1958.
  • America, Britain and Russia: Their Cooperation and Conflict, 1941-46, Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1953.
  • Past and Future, University of Chicago Press, 1954.
  • Greece: American Aid in Action, Twentieth Century Fund, 1957.
  • The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community, University of Chicago Press, 1963.
  • Europe’s Steppe Frontier 1500-1800, University of Chicago Press, 1964.
  • A World History, Oxford University Press, 1967, 3rd edition, 1979.
  • The Contemporary World, Scott, Foresman, 1967, revised edition, 1975.
  • The Ecumene: Story of Humanity, Harper, 1973.
  • The Shape of European History, Oxford University Press, 1974.
  • Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1081-1797, University of Chicago Press, 1974. Plagues and Peoples, Doubleday, 1976.
  • The Metamorphosis of Greece since World War II, University of Chicago Press, 1978.
  • The Human Condition: An Ecological and Historical View, Princeton University Press, 1980.
  • History of Western Civilization: A Handbook, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.
  • Mythistory and Other Essays, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.
  • The History of the Human Community: Prehistory to the Present, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1987.
  • The Age of Gunpowder Empires, 1450-1800, American Historical Association (Washington, DC), 1989.
  • Arnold J. Toynbee, a Life, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
  • The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community: With a Retrospective Essay, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.
  • Population and Politics since 1750, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1990.
  • The Global Condition: Conquerors, Catastrophes, and Community, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1992.
  • Toynbee Revisited, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1993.
  • The History of the Human Community: Prehistory to the Present, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1997.
  • A World History. Oxford University Press; 4th edition, 1998.
  • The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian’s Memoir, University of Kentucky Press, 2005.
  • Hutchins’ University: A Memoir of the University of Chicago, 1929-1950, University Of Chicago Press, 2007.

Editor & Joint Author:

  • (With wife, E. D. McNeill and Frank Smothers) Report on the Greeks, Twentieth Century Fund, 1948.
  • editor-in-chief of sixteen world history maps for Denoyer-Geppert, 1956, revised edition, 1963.
  • (Editor) Lord Action: Essays in the Liberal Interpretation of History, University of Chicago Press, 1967.
  • (Editor-in-chief) Readings in World History, ten volumes, Oxford University Press, 1968-73.
  • (Editor with Ruth S. Adams) Human Migration: Patterns and Policies, Indiana University Press, 1978.
  • (With son J. R. McNeill) The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History, W. W. Norton & Co, 2003.

Contributer:

  • G. von Grunebaum and W. Hartner, editors, Klassizismus und Kulturverfall, Klosterman (Frankfurt), 1960.
  • E. Gargan, editor, The Intent of Toynbee’s History, Loyola University Press, 1961.
  • Martin Ballard, editor, New Movements in the Study and Teaching of History, Temple Smith, 1970.
  • Kemal Karpat, editor, The Ottoman State and Its Place in World History, E. J. Brill, 1974.
  • Jean Cuisinier, editor, Europe as a Cultural Area, Mouton, 1979.

Also contributor of chapters to numerous other books. Contributor of articles and book reviews to professional journals.

Awards:

  • Fulbright research scholar, 1950-51;
  • Rockefeller grant, 1951-52, and 1976, for The Metamorphosis of Greece since World War II;
  • Ford faculty fellow, 1954-55; Carnegie five-year grant for completion of The Rise of the West, 1957-62;
  • National Book Award in nonfiction, 1964, for The Rise of the West;
  • Guggenheim grant, 1971-72, for Venice;

Josiah H. Macy Foundation grant, 1973-74, for Plagues and Peoples;
recipient of several honorary degrees;
The Erasmus Prize from the Dutch government for his contribution to European culture, 1996.

2009 National Humanities Medal presented by President Barack Obama, February 25, 2010

Additional Info:

President of the American Historical Association, 1985 ;
Vice-Chairman of the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission, 1985.
McNeill is a member of the following associations: American Historical Association, American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, British Academy, Modern Greek Studies Association, and Phi Beta Kappa.

Sources: For introductory bio, Why Study History? – Essay by William H. McNeill and University of Kentucky Press The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian’s Memoir By William Hardy McNeill.
For basic facts, “William Hardy McNeill,” Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004.

Posted on Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 11:31 PM

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