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But Who Keeps Score?

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In what I call the “Peoples History of Violent Death: 20th Century” counting the numbers of deaths caused by wars and violence has produced a tie score for first place and one surprising result.

Our late lamented century, old number 20, stands highest in the Pantheon of relentless carnage. In the numbers game it has no close competitor. Genghis Kahn had his fling as did the old Romans and many ghastly others whose benighted despotism spilled lakes of blood to be sure. But alas, no contest in the body-count business.

Our forefathers made a heroic try in the 19th century. Civil War here at home, French Revolution, some nastiness in the Crimea and around the horn of Africa, a few million Indians wiped out, but we need to get on to the big hitters, the ones who could spill oceans of gore. Just weren’t enough folks and firepower to really get the numbers up until the planet got filled to the max in the dear old 20th.

Enter the big players. Not much to report early in the game. Then came 1914. Whew! Stand back or you might be splashed. From then on, till the last blood-drenched day of the century, all the old records for sheer slaughter were constantly being broken.

Emerging from the chaos, now that the smoke has cleared a little, we see the history tote board running up the totals:

Look at that! A virtual tie for first place!

It’s spine chilling. But numbers don’t lie. The winners, each with identical numbers in the corpse derby are:

The Western Nations with 83 Million Victims Slaughtered


The Communist Nations with 83 Million Victims Slaughtered

Give them a hand. Job well done!

Now, here’s a surprise. Great numbers for a small nation. All alone in second place, it’s:

Japan with 43 Million Victims Wiped Out

Way to go!

In third place is a motley collection of hard strivers composed of some Buddhists, Animists, partisans, tribes etc., ad nauseam, but the numbers are not that shabby:

24 million Victims Massacred

Well, somebody has to be last. Would you believe it’s the Moslems?

All the recent demonizing of Moslems as blood-thirsty notwithstanding, the numbers are not there. A hundred years to show us what they got and it’s pathetic. A measly 7 million victims done in, come on guys. 7 million out of a possible 240 million. Less than 3%. All talk and no action if you ask me.

So folks, if you want to do the math yourself, be my guest. The statistics are available at Twentieth Century Atlas-Death Tolls.

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About Robert Magill

  • Robert,

    The obvious cause went without saying: New and ever improving war technology.

    You are correct to cite the fact that slaughter has pretty much been on the front burner of human affairs as far back as we can discern.

    I wouldn’t say that we humans are any more blood thirsty now than before, we are just far more efficient. We literally get more bang for our buck.

    In the glorious days of yore, when the best that the warmongers had to offer were swords, spears, bow and arrows, boiling oil, maybe the odd catapult, so called “siege engines,” etc., they just couldn’t put up the numbers we can today. The aforementioned bow and arrows and catapults were the closest they could come to killing without engaging the enemy face to face.

    While doing battle today ultimately requires close in combat to finish the deal, most of the early engagements tend to be push button affairs. That someone sitting in perhaps a Pentagon office can, with a few strokes of a keyboard and/or the click of a mouse, dispatch enough megatonnage to pretty much wipe out all human life on the planet, makes warfare a far different animal than that experienced by the Sumarians or Spartans or Normans or even the American Confederacy. Modern warfare is a “whole ‘nother smoke.”

    BTW – Has anyone heard from or about Jet since his triple bypass?


  • Actually, the even more obvious and unmentioned factor is the growth of population. With much larger populations in the 20th century than earlier eras larger armies were in the field and therefore, even with lower casualty rates more people were killed.

    And the author missed the Russo-Japanese War, which was before WWI and had very high casualty counts on both sides.


  • Well, there are a number of things not specifically mentioned in the article such as the Nazi holacaust, Stalin’s, Mao’s and Pol Pot’s purges amongst others. Those deaths were not actually the result of warfare, but are nevertheless large numbers of people sent to the slaughter house.

    One difference is that generally today the victors in war do not pillage and plunder – leveling a besieged city and murdering all of its inhabitants as was once the common practice. At some point someone realized that having a scorched earth policy regarding crops and livestock, buildings and even people was not very wise from an economic standpoint. I suppose there were also some humanitarian twinges in there as well.

  • And the funnier thing is that us genocidal Isra-nazis do not even rate a passing mention! I’m hanging my head in shame. Maybe we ought to destroy the High Aswan Dam just for practice. That’ll get our numbers up there!

  • B-tone, Jet reckoned it would be at least a week and a half before he’d be in any fit state to get back online. Let’s hope everything went well.

  • Doc,

    Well, I kinda figured that, but thought I’d float the question around anyhow.


  • Baronius

    There are also the millions who died in the famines of the Soviet Union and China. The Chinese famines were probably the result of bad planning, but the Soviet famines (particularly in Ukraine, if I remember correctly) were deliberate. I think those have to count against the total.

    Also, you’ve got to single out Turkey for its tally. The absolute number may be low, but what a remarkable percentage of neighbors and ethnic minorities. They pretty much killed everyone they could get their hands on for a century.

    My last quibble is that the West is lumped together. The motivation behind the German death toll had more in common with the Japanese than with the British.

    All in all, very interesting. I used similar numbers a long time ago to reply to the “more people have died in the name of God” canard. As near as I could tell, religious and non-religious wars took roughly the same number of people until 1789. After that, secular wars took the lead and never looked back.

  • Brunelleschi

    There was another thread where I was arguing that western imperialism (in it’s contemporary form-just manipulate and don’t plant the flag) was what Arabs were angry about, and they had no motive to do the same-since their battles are local. Then I argued that things like 9/11 are reactions and not invasions.

    Some people didn’t like that too much.

    But these stats seem to back that up.

    I don’t see Arabs building battleships to cross the ocean and take over Satanland, but we have plenty of ships in the ME. Who is attacking who and why?

  • Bwahaha! Boohooohoooo!!!! Poor wittle Arabs!!!

    Apparently Hamas, Inc. has come up with just the thing for the up and coming Hamas terrorist.

    Isn’t it cute?

  • Brunelleschi

    Spoiled brat.

    America needs to pull the plug…

  • [chuckles darkly]