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van Loon, Hendrik Willem (14 January 1882–11 March 1944), popular historian and writer, was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Hendrik Willem van Loon, a jeweler, and Elisabeth Johanna Hanken. In 1890 his father moved the family to The Hague and van Loon came under the informal guardianship of his maternal uncle, Jan Hanken, a surgeon, art connoisseur, and amateur musician. Unlike his father, van Loon’s uncle encouraged the boy’s intellectual pursuits, particularly painting, music, and history. When his uncle left for the United States in 1902, van Loon followed him and enrolled at Cornell University. He graduated with a B.A. in 1905....