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William Hardy McNeill was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on October 31, 1917. He received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of Chicago. He was drafted in 1941 and served with the Army in Hawaii and the Caribbean and as assistant military attaché to the Greek and Yugoslavian governments-in-exile in Cairo, Egypt. After the war, he received a doctorate from Cornell University. He was a history professor at the University of Chicago from 1947 until he retired in 1987. He wrote more than 20 books during his lifetime including Plagues and Peoples; The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000; Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life, Hutchins' University: A Memoir of the University of Chicago, 1929-1950; and Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History. The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community won the 1963 National Book Award for history and the Gordon J. Laing Prize of the University of Chicago. He was the co-author of The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History with his son John Robert McNeill. He also wrote a memoir entitled The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian's Memoir. He was one of the editors of the Readings in World History Series published by Oxford University Press. He died on July 8, 2016 at the age of 98.