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Thought-provoking, well-researched, and compulsively readable, Plagues and Peoples is that rare book that is as fascinating as it is scholarly, as intriguing as it is enlightening. "A brilliantly conceptualized and challenging achievement" (Kirkus Reviews), it is essential reading, offering a new perspective on human history.
In a retrospective essay titled "The Rise of the West after Twenty-five Years," McNeill shows how his book was shaped by the time and place in which it was written (1954-63). He discusses how historiography subsequently developed and suggests how his portrait of the world's past in The Rise of the West should be revised to reflect these changes.
"This is not only the most learned and the most intelligent, it is also the most stimulating and fascinating book that has ever set out to recount and explain the whole history of mankind. . . . To read it is a great experience. It leaves echoes to reverberate, and seeds to germinate in the mind."—H. R. Trevor-Roper, New York Times Book Review
William H. McNeill is known for his ability to portray the grand sweep of history. The Global Condition is a classic work for understanding the grand sweep of world history in brief compass. Now with a new foreword by J. R. McNeill, this book brings together two of William Hardy McNeill's popular short books and an essay. The Human Condition provides a provocative interpretation of history as a competition of parasites, both biological and human; The Great Frontier questions the notion of "frontier freedom" through an examination of European expansion; the concluding essay speculates on the role of catastrophe in our lives.
In Arnold Toynbee: A Life, William H. McNeill weaves together Toynbee's intellectual accomplishments and the personal difficulties of his private life, providing both an intimate portrait of a leading thinker and a judicious evaluation of Toynbee's work and his legacy for the study of history. McNeill illuminates the strengths and weaknesses of A Study of History as well as the countless other works penned by this prolific writer, examining the responses of other historians (including the devastating attack mounted by Hugh Trevor Roper) and Toynbee's attempts to modify his Study to answer these criticisms. And McNeill also examines Toynbee's tormented personal life, including his troubled marriage to Rosalind Murray (the daughter of Gilbert Murray), and the suicide of his son Anthony. What emerges is both poignant and thought-provoking, a biography and a commentary about how history is written and how it should be pursued.
William McNeill is one of America's most eminent historians, the winner of a National Book Award in 1964 for The Rise of the West, which The New York Times Book Review called "the most learned...the most intelligent...the most stimulating and fascinating book that has ever set out to recount and explain the whole history of the world." In this sympathetic portrait of a life both triumphant and troubled, McNeill brings his skills to bear on one of the greatest figures in his field, illuminating a career of rare accomplishment.
In this magisterial history, National Book Award winner William H. McNeill chronicles the interactions and disputes between Latin Christians and the Orthodox communities of eastern Europe during the period 1081–1797. Concentrating on Venice as the hinge of European history in the late medieval and early modern period, McNeill explores the technological, economic, and political bases of Venetian power and wealth, and the city’s unique status at the frontier between the papal and Orthodox Christian worlds. He pays particular attention to Venetian influence upon southeastern Europe, and from such an angle of vision, the familiar pattern of European history changes shape.
“No other historian would have been capable of writing a book as direct, as well-informed and as little weighed down by purple prose as this one. Or as impartial. McNeill has succeeded admirably.”—Fernand Braudel, Times Literary Supplement
“The book is serious, interesting, occasionally compelling, and always suggestive.”—Stanley Chojnacki, American Historical Review
Hutchins' scathing opposition to the departmentalization of learning and his resounding call for reforms in general education sparked controversy and fueled debate on campus and off. It became a struggle for the heart and soul of higher education—and McNeill, as a student and then as an instructor, was a participant. His account of the university's history is laced with personal reminiscences, encounters with influential fellow scholars such as Richard McKeon, R. S. Crane, and David Daiches, and details drawn from Hutchins' papers and other archives.
McNeill sketches the interplay of personalities with changing circumstances of the Depression, war, and postwar eras. But his central concern is with the institutional life of the University, showing how student behavior, staff and faculty activity and even the Hyde Park neighborhood all revolved around the charismatic figure of Robert Maynard Hutchins—shaped by him and in reaction against him.
Successive transformations of the College, and the tribulations of the ideal of general or liberal education are central to much of the story; but the memoir also explores how the University was affected by such events as Red scares, the remarkably successful Round Table radio broadcasts, the
abolition of big time football, and the inauguration of the nuclear age under the west stands of Stagg Field in 1942.
In short, Hutchins' University sketches an extraordinarily vibrant period for the University of Chicago
and for American higher education. It will revive old controversies among veterans from those times, and may provoke others to reflect anew about the proper role of higher education in American society.
William H. McNeill's seminal book The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963) received 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. From his post at the University of Chicago, McNeill became one of the first contemporary North American historians to write world history, seeking a broader interpretation of human affairs than prevailed in his youth. This 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. Instead, McNeill believes that human lives are immersed in vast overarching processes of change. Ecological circumstances frame and limit human action, while in turn humans have been able to alter their environment more and more radically as technological skill and knowledge increased. McNeill believes that the human adventure on earth is unique, and that it rests on an unmatched system of communication. The web of human communication, whether spoken, written, or digital, has fostered both voluntary and involuntary cooperation and sustained behavioral changes, permitting a single species to spread over an entire planet and to alter terrestrial flows of energy and ideas to an extraordinary degree. Over the course of his career as a historian, teacher, and mentor, McNeill expounded the range of history and integrated it into an evolutionary worldview uniting physical, biological, and intellectual processes. Accordingly, The Pursuit of Truth explores the personal and professional life of a man who affected the way a core academic discipline has been taught and understood in America.
A leading American historian examines the character of the frontiers of European expansion throughout the modern age, questioning a notion of frontier freedom popular since Turner. William McNeill argues that social hierarchy characterized the frontier more often than pioneer equality. As Europeans traveled to various lands, bringing new diseases to vulnerable natives, formerly isolated populations died in great numbers, creating an "open" frontier where labor was scarce. European efforts to develop frontier areas involved either a radical leveling of the hierarchies common in Europe itself or, alternatively, their sharp reinforcement by resort to slavery, serfdom, peonage, and indentured labor.
Juxtaposing national and transnational experiences and illuminating the complex interchange of peoples (and illnesses) in the modern era, Professor McNeill brings the history of the United States into perspective as an example of a process that encircled the globe. His book clarifies both the experience of the global frontier and the processes that now mark the end of hundreds of year of expansion of the European center.
William H. McNeill is Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago. His numerous books include The Rise of the West (Chicago); Plagues and Peoples (Doubleday); and The Human Condition (Princeton).
Originally published in 1983.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.