Interview: William H. McNeill

Document Type



Environmental Analysis (Pomona)

Publication Date



William H. McNeill, environmental history, interview


Twenty years ago, in a review of a book of essays on environmental history edited by Donald Worster [The Ends of the Earth, 1988], William H. McNeill wrote: “The question of whether there is a new field of environmental history with a sufficient body of shared ideas to become a coherent sub-discipline has not really been answered. … Whether [environmental historians] will revolutionize the study of history, as Worster says social historians did a generation ago, or merely fragment it by creating another coterie of specialists who read one another's writing and not much else, remains to be seen. But the elementary fact that human beings share the earth with other forms of life, and have from ancient times been capable of altering natural balances more drastically than any other species has ever done, surely ought to become part of all historians' consciousness.”

We are delighted that, two decades after this initial assessment, Professor McNeill, a pioneer in the field of world history, has agreed to discuss the current convergence between world history and environmental history, as well as the shape of his own distinguished career.

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© 2010 American Society for Environmental History and Forest History Society

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