J. R. McNeill
John Robert McNeill
|Occupation||Professor and historian|
|Parent(s)||William H. McNeill|
|Alma mater||Swarthmore College |
|Notable works||Something New Under the Sun (2000)|
John Robert McNeill (born October 6, 1954) is an American environmental historian, author, and professor at Georgetown University. He is best known for "pioneering the study of environmental history". In 2000 he published Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-century World, which argues that human activity during the 20th century led to environmental damage on an unprecedented scale.
Life and career
McNeill was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father was the noted University of Chicago historian William H. McNeill, with whom he published a book, The Human Web: A Bird's-eye View of World History, in 2003.
In 1985 he became a faculty member at Georgetown University, where he serves in both the History Department and the Walsh School of Foreign Service. In 2003 he held the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environmental History and International Affairs, until he was appointed a full university professor in 2006. He has held two Fulbright Awards, a Guggenheim fellowship, a MacArthur Grant, and a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He was president of the American Society for Environmental History (2011–13) and headed the Research Division of the American Historical Association, as one of its three Vice Presidents (2012–15). He was awarded the Heineken Prize in History in 2018.
McNeill focuses on environmental history, a field in which he has been recognized as a pioneer. In 2000, he published his best-known book, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-century World, which argues that human activity during the 20th century led to environmental damage on an unprecedented scale. He notes that before 1900, human activity did lead to a degree of local pollution, but that it barely registered on the environment compared to meteors, tectonic activity, and volcanoes; this has not been the case since 1900. His tone has been praised for its being dispassionate, impartial, and lacking the moral outrage that often accompanies books about the environment.
In 2010, he published Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640-1914, where he argues that mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria and the "differential resistance" between local and European populations has shaped the arc of Caribbean history. Specifically, he says that it explains how Spain and Portugal were able to protect their colonies from their European rivals for so long and also why imperial Spain and Britain ultimately lost their mainland empires in the Americas late 18th and early 19th centuries. The book won the Beveridge Prize from the American Historical Association, a PROSE award from the Association of American Publishers, and was listed by the Wall Street Journal among the best books in early American history.
In 2016 McNeill and co-author Peter Engelke published The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945. The "Great Acceleration" is a term "used to describe the initial decades of the Anthropocene", a "new interval in Earth’s history" starting around 1945, when "human interference in the Earth’s ecology has reached a new intensity". He is working on an environmental history of the Industrial Revolution.
Awards and honors
- 2001: World History Association Book Prize, Something New Under The Sun
- 2001: Forest Society Book Prize, Something New Under The Sun
- 2010: Toynbee Prize, for "academic and public contributions to humanity"
- 2010: AHABeveridge Award, Mosquito Empires
- 2010: Association of American Publishers PROSE award for European & World History, Mosquito Empires
- 2017: elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 2018: Dr A.H. Heineken Prize, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
- With Peter Engelke. The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-674-54503-8.
- Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640-1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-521-45910-5.
- With William H. McNeill. The Human Web: A Bird’s-eye View of World History. New York: Norton, 2003, ISBN 978-0-393-92568-5.
- Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World. New York: Norton, 2000, ISBN 978-0-140-29509-2.
- The Mountains of the Mediterranean World: An Environmental History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-521-52288-5.
- The Atlantic Empires of France and Spain: Louisbourg and Havana, 1700-1763. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1985, ISBN 978-0-807-86567-5.
- "The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives" (PDF). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A. 369 (1938): 842–867. 2011. doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0327.
- With Will Steffen and Paul J. Crutzen. "The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature" (PDF). AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. 36 (8): 614–621. December 2007. doi:10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[614:TAAHNO]2.0.CO;2.
- With Verena Winiwarter. "Breaking the Sod: Humankind, History, and Soil". Science. 304 (5677): 1627–1629. 11 June 2004. doi:10.1126/science.1099893.
- "Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental History". History and Theory. 42 (4): 5–43. December 2003. doi:10.1046/j.1468-2303.2003.00255.x. JSTOR 3590677.
- G. John Ikenberry (May–June 2003). "Capsule Review: The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- "William H. McNeill, Pioneering World Historian, 1917–2016". University of Chicago News. 11 July 2016.
- "John McNeill". Walsh School of Foreign Service. Georgetown University. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Lewis, Martin W. (January 2000). "Reviewed Work: Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World by J. R. McNeill". Geographical Review. 90 (1): 147–149. doi:10.2307/216186. JSTOR 216186.
- Teresi, Dick (25 June 2000). "It's Been Hell on Earth". New York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Richard N. Cooper (July–August 2000). "Capsule Review: Something New Under the Sun". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Soluri, John (Fall 2002). "Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World (review)". Journal of Social History. 36 (1): 183–185. doi:10.1353/jsh.2002.0109.
- J. R. McNeill (18 October 2010). "Malarial mosquitoes helped defeat British in battle that ended Revolutionary War". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Espinosa, Mariola (Winter 2011). "Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620–1914 (review)". Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 41 (3): 483–484.
- Dillman, Jefferson (October 2012). "Review of McNeill, J. R., Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914". H-Caribbean, H-Net Reviews. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Peter Engelke; J.R. McNeill (21 April 2016). "Earth Day: Are we at the beginning of a new geological era?". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- "2010 Award Winners". PROSE Awards. Retrieved 1 February 2018.