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Assessing Atrocities

2014 Aug 08 03:04   category: World Affairs   author:  
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It is perhaps something we should all be more knowledgeable about – the sadly astonishing number of deaths caused by human directed activities throughout history. It has become a passion for Matthew White to trawl the available information and tally up which of humanity’s achievements has been the deadliest. His findings are published in his book Atrocitology, which is interesting to delve into but perhaps a bit too depressing to read in full. A brief analysis at the end might challenge a few misconceptions but the number one deadliest event will be no surprise – the second world war with 66 million deaths. Alternatively he suggests that several of the global conflicts during the 20th century could be grouped together as one interconnected ‘hemoclysm’ (Greek for blood flood) causing a total of 150 million deaths.

So is there any hope that the 21st century will be less deadly than the one before? It no doubt helps to understand just how deadly our past activities have been. On the other hand it may also help to recognize mankind’s most life-saving activities, for example the eradication of smallpox must surely have saved millions of lives.

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