Atrocitology: Humanity's 100 Deadliest Achievements
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Was the twentieth century the most violent in history? Are religions or tyrants, capitalism or communism the cause of most human suffering? Has violence increased or decreased over the course of history? In this wholly original and remarkably ambitious work, 'Atrocitologist' Matthew White considers man's inhumanity to man across several thousand years of history. From the First Punic War and the collapse of Mayan rule, to the reign of Peter the Great and the cataclysmic events of the Second World War, White's epic book spans centuries and civilisations as it measures the hundred most violent events in human history. While sceptical of any grand theory for the causes of human violence, White does share three big lessons gleaned from his careful statistical analysis: one, chaos is more deadly than tyranny; two, the world is even more disorganised than we realise; and three, wars kill more civilians than soldiers (in fact, the army is usually the safest place to be). If we study history to avoid the mistakes of the past, then there can be no more important place to start than this eye-opening and entertaining book.
taken and destroyed the emperor’s Summer Palace outside Beijing. The West considered its options. Maybe it was time to take complete control of China and replace the corrupt and xenophobic Qing dynasty with Westernized puppets. For several years, the West had considered the Taipings to be proper Christians worthy of moral support at least. When Hong’s strange heresies became more apparent, the West returned to supporting the devil they knew, the imperial Qing. They accepted a peace treaty that
simply because the records have been lost. Because India is the biggest region with the most poorly recorded history, it is the most likely venue for completely unknown megadeaths that killed millions. Some Other Dreadful Thing in Pre-Colonial Africa or America: One of the advantages of living in a society without a written language is that you don’t leave a paper trail when you commit crimes against humanity. Sengoku Jidai (Age of Warring States in Japan, 1467–1603): I looked into it, but
Baghdad,” Associated Press, December 9, 2003, cites U.S. Government, (300,000 killed by Saddam across Iraq), “Human rights officials” (500,000), and “some Iraqi political parties” (over a million). Ken Roth, “War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention,” Human Rights Watch, January 2004, http://www.hrw.org/wr2k4/3.htm, estimates 250,000. 2. Hirst, “Saddam Hussein.” 3. Chirot, Modern Tyrants, p. 303. 4. Ibid., see here. 5. Hirst, “Saddam Hussein.” 6. Michael J. Kelly, Ghosts of Halabja:
York: G. P. Putnam, 1852), p. 417 (400,000); A Military Dictionary and Gazetteer: Comprising Ancient and Modern Military Technical Terms . . . (Philadelphia: Thomas Wilhelm, 1882), p. 310 (300,000). 3. Historia Augusta, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Historia_Augusta/Claudius*.html (accessed March 18, 2011). 4. Susan P. Mattern, Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 93. 5. Historia Augusta,
all of the horror stories as propaganda. It’s interesting to watch the debate go back and forth over time as each expert weighs in: J. D. Durand, 1960: “A considerable decrease of population in the north might have been caused by the struggle between the Chinese and the Mongol invader. . . . Still the sheer magnitude of the decrease in the north, not balanced by any corresponding increase in the south, creates a suspicion that the census in the north was very defective.”25 Rene Grousset, 1972: