William H. McNeill, Professor and Prolific Author, Dies at 98

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, William H McNeill

William H. McNeill, a professor and prolific author whose catholic exploration of world history widened the traditional Eurocentric approach to the subject, died on Friday in Torrington, Conn. He was 98.

His death was confirmed by his son John Robert McNeill, a third-generation historian, with whom he collaborated on “The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History” in 2003.

Professor McNeill’s opus, “The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community” (1963), took 10 years to write. It became a best seller, won the National Book Award for history and biography and was lauded in The New York Times Book Review by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. “This is not only the most learned and the most intelligent,” he wrote, “it is also the most stimulating and fascinating book that has ever set out to recount and explain the whole history of mankind.”

Professor McNeill conceived “The Rise of the West” in 1936 as an antidote to Oswald Spengler’s gloomy “Decline of the West” and Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History,” which postulated that civilizations marched to their own drummers, largely unaffected by foreign influences.

Professor McNeill’s book looked beyond Europe to argue that the dynamic give and take between civilizations and nations over five millenniums defined global history and spurred the rise of the West since 1500. ...

Read entire article at NYT

comments powered by Disqus