The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities
The Great Big Book of Horrible Things.jpg
AuthorMatthew White
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SubjectWar crimes
Published2011
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Media typePrint
Pages669
ISBN978-0-393-08192-3

The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities is a popular history book by Matthew White, an independent scholar and self-described atrocitologist. The book provides a ranking of the hundred worst atrocities of mankind based on the number of deaths.

Background[edit]

Matthew White, a self-described atrocitologist and a librarian at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, wrote the book in 2011.[1] He compiled his list of hundred worst atrocities without any degree or formal training in history or statistics. However, his statistics have been used as source by many authors, including in 377 books and 183 scholarly articles.[1] White previously administered the Historical Atlas of the 20th Century on his own website, and became interested in the subject due to constant arguments in cyberspace about who was actually responsible for various atrocities throughout history.[2]

Content[edit]

The foreword of the book was written by psychologist Steven Pinker.[1] After the foreword the book chronologically lists the hundred atrocities. Some of these are the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia, An Lushan Rebellion, and World War II.

White's methodology for creating the list was gathering all available data on atrocities and attempting to discern consensus estimates for each one's death tolls. His focus is on armed conflict, with famine and disease relating to such conflict counting for the statistics, while natural disasters and economic events do not. White notes that there is no atrocity for which the statistics can be agreed upon worldwide.[3]

One of White's conclusions is that no one system of government is obviously more murderous, and anarchy can be worst of all. He furthermore claims that governments don't kill people, rather people kill people.[1] Another conclusion is that chaos is more deadly than tyranny.[2]

White's ranking of atrocities[edit]

Rank Event Place Start year End year Death toll
96 Second Persian War Greece 480 BCE 479 BCE 300,000
70 Alexander the Great's conquests Middle East 336 BCE 325 BCE 500,000
40 Warring States China 475 BCE 221 BCE 1,500,000
81 First Punic War Western Mediterranean 264 BCE 241 BCE 400,000
46 Qin Shi Huangdi's reign China 221 BCE 210 BCE 1,000,000
58 Second Punic War Western Mediterranean 218 BCE 202 BCE 770,000
28 Roman gladiatorial games Roman Empire 264 BCE 435 3,500,000
46 Roman Slave Wars Sicily and Italy 134 BCE 71 BCE 1,000,000
96 War of the Allies Italy 91 BCE 88 BCE 300,000
81 Third Mithridatic War Turkey 73 BCE 63 BCE 400,000
61 Gallic War France 58 BCE 51 BCE 700,000
14 Xin Dynasty China 9 24 10,000,000
94 Jewish-Roman Wars Palestine 66 135 350,000
25 Three Kingdoms of China China 189 280 4,100,000
19 Fall of the Western Roman Empire Western Europe 395 455 7,000,000
59 Justinian's reign Mediterranean 527 565 750,000
67 Goguryeo-Sui Wars Korea 598 612 600,000
8 Mideast Slave Trade Middle East 600 1900 18,500,000
13 An Lushan Rebellion China 755 763 13,000,000
46 Mayan collapse Mexico and Guatemala 790 909 1,000,000
30 Crusades Levant 1095 1291 3,000,000
37 Fang La's Rebellion China 1120 1122 2,000,000
2 Genghis Khan's conquests Asian interior 1206 1227 40,000,000
46 Albigensian Crusade France 1208 1209 1,000,000
55 Hulagu's sack of Baghdad Middle East 1255 1260 800,000
28 Hundred Years War France 1337 1453 3,500,000
17 Red Turban Rebellion China 1351 1368 7,500,000
70 Bahmani-Vijayanagara War Southern India 1366 1366 500,000
9 Timur's conquests Central Asia 1370 1405 17,000,000
61 Chinese conquest of Vietnam Vietnam 1406 1428 700,000
45 Aztec human sacrifice Mexico 1440 1521 1,200,000
10 Atlantic Slave Trade Africa and Americas 1452 1807 16,000,000
11 European colonization of the Americas Americas 1492 1890 15,000,000
54 Burmese-Siamese Wars Southeast Asia 1550 1605 900,000
30 French Wars of Religion France 1562 1598 3,000,000
70 Russo-Tatar War Russia 1570 1572 500,000
22 Time of Troubles Russia 1598 1613 5,000,000
17 Thirty Years War Germany 1618 1648 7,500,000
5 Fall of the Ming Dynasty China 1635 1662 25,000,000
81 Cromwellian conquest of Ireland Ireland 1649 1652 400,000
23 Aurangzeb's rule India 1658 1707 4,600,000
89 Great Turkish War Southeastern Europe 1682 1699 384,000
30 Peter the Great's reforms Russia 1682 1725 3,000,000
90 Great Northern War Eastern Europe 1700 1721 370,000
61 War of the Spanish Succession Western Europe 1701 1713 700,000
70 War of the Austrian Succession Central Europe 1740 1748 500,000
67 Dzungar genocide Central Asia 1755 1757 600,000
40 Seven Years' War Europe and its colonies 1756 1763 1,500,000
26 Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars Europe, Levant, Caribbean 1792 1815 4,000,000
81 Haitian Slave Revolt Haiti 1791 1803 400,000
81 Mexican War of Independence Mexico 1810 1821 400,000
40 Mfecane South Africa 1816 1828 1,500,000
57 French conquest of Algeria Algeria 1830 1847 775,000
6 Taiping Rebellion China 1850 1864 20,000,000
96 Crimean War Black Sea 1854 1856 300,000
46 Panthay Rebellion China 1855 1873 1,000,000
65 American Civil War United States 1861 1865 695,000
66 Dungan Revolt China 1862 1873 640,000
79 War of the Triple Alliance South America 1864 1870 480,000
80 Franco-Prussian War France 1870 1871 435,000
4 Famines in British India India 1769 1900 26,600,000
70 Russo-Turkish War Balkans 1877 1878 500,000
21 Mahdi Revolt Sudan 1881 1898 5,500,000
14 Congo Free State Congo 1885 1908 10,000,000
93 Cuban War of Independence Cuba 1895 1898 360,000
46 Mexican Revolution Mexico 1910 1920 1,000,000
11 World War One Europe, Middle East, Atlantic 1914 1918 15,000,000
16 Russian Civil War Russia 1918 1920 9,000,000
81 Greco-Turkish War Turkey 1919 1922 400,000
19 Chinese Civil War China 1926 1949 7,000,000
6 Stalin's rule Soviet Union 1928 1953 20,000,000
59 Second Italo-Ethiopian War Ethiopia 1935 1941 750,000
91 Spanish Civil War Spain 1936 1939 365,000
1 World War Two Europe, Asia, Africa 1939 1945 66,000,000
36 Expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe Eastern Europe 1945 1947 2,100,000
88 French Indochina War French Indochina 1945 1954 393,000
70 Partition of India India and Pakistan 1947 1947 500,000
2 Mao Zedong's rule China 1949 1976 40,000,000
30 Korean War Korea 1950 1953 3,000,000
30 North Korea North Korea 1948 3,000,000
69 Algerian War of Independence Algeria 1954 1962 525,000
35 Sudanese Civil Wars Sudan, South Sudan 1955 2,600,000
24 Vietnam War Southeast Asia 1959 1975 4,200,000
81 Suharto's purge Indonesia 1965 1966 400,000
46 Biafran War Nigeria 1966 1970 1,000,000
40 Bengali Genocide Bangladesh 1971 1971 1,500,000
96 Idi Amin's rule Uganda 1971 1979 300,000
37 Mengistu Haile's rule Ethiopia 1974 1991 2,000,000
91 Postwar Vietnam Vietnam 1975 1992 365,000
39 Democratic Kampuchea Cambodia 1975 1979 1,670,000
55 Mozambican Civil War Mozambique 1975 1992 800,000
70 Angolan Civil War Angola 1975 1994 500,000
70 Ugandan Bush War Uganda 1979 1986 500,000
40 Soviet-Afghan War Afghanistan 1979 1992 1,500,000
96 Saddam Hussein's peacetime rule Iraq 1979 2003 300,000
61 Iran-Iraq War Persian Gulf 1980 1988 700,000
94 Sanctions against Iraq Iraq 1990 2003 350,000
70 Anarchy in Somalia Somalia 1991 500,000
53 Rwandan Genocide Rwanda 1994 1994 937,000
27 Second Congo War Central Africa 1998 2002 3,800,000

Publication[edit]

The book was first published in hardcover by W. W. Norton & Company in November 2011.[1] The paperback was published by W. W. Norton in May 2013 under the new title Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History. The UK edition (Canongate Books, 20 Oct 2011) is entitled Atrocitology: Humanity's 100 Deadliest Achievements. It has been translated into Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Academic analysis[edit]

Steven Pinker credits White with creating "the most comprehensive, disinterested and statistically nuanced estimates available".[1] He does however say that numbers provided by White are "at the high end of the range".[1] He praised the methodological standards of White and the transparency of sources. Charles S. Maier, a professor at Harvard University, says that "these figures are notoriously elusive" and that White "seems to have tried to get the best figures he could".[1] He added that most historians feel ashamed about doing this kind of raw exercise, adding "here’s a guy who hasn’t been afraid to get his hands dirty".[1] Ben Kiernan, director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University commented that "averaging guesses alongside more precise counts can be misleading".[1] Randolph Roth, co-director of the Historical Violence Database at Ohio State University, said that it is difficult to make a quantitative analysis of an event while not knowing about the qualitative side of the context. He praised White's effort to look at the big picture, while adding "it’s going to be hard for many historians to read this book and look at that death toll for Genghis Khan, that 40 million, and not have a sinking feeling".[1]

Rudolph Rummel, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, disagrees with White on the extent of democide present in the 20th century. He calls White's statistics "not reliable", and claims that Stalin killed 61 million people, rather than the 20 million mentioned in the book by White.[1] He insisted that the difference in numbers is "a profound statement on the nature of Communism".[1]

Public reception[edit]

Jennifer Schuessler of The New York Times praised the "stylishly lurid graphics and goofy asides".[1] James Hannaham of The Village Voice stated that the book might start controversy. He picked the example of slavery, saying that White claimed it was nearly eradicated, which he argues is not true if human trafficking is accounted for. He does compliment the style of writing: "even reading this world bummer with a grain of salt, you can't resist White's witty prose or put the damned thing down".[4] Bill Blakemore of ABC News praised the elegant use of humor in the book, furthermore calling it a "fascinating, new, big and easy-to-read reference book".[5] He called the style of writing "crystal clear" and said that "White’s list of the 100 Deadliest Atrocities is full of surprises".[5] Randy Dotinga of The Christian Science Monitor said of the book that "despite being a kind of encyclopedia of evil, it actually manages to be a fascinating read thanks to White's keen grasp of history and his wry take on the villains of the past".[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Jennifer Schuessler (8 November 2011). "Ranking History's Atrocities by Counting the Corpses". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Randy Dotinga (24 February 2012). "Encyclopedia of evil: a catalog of history's 100 worst atrocities". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  3. ^ "'The Great Big Book of Horrible Things': Author ranks history's worst atrocities... and warns more horrors could be on the way". Daily Mail. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  4. ^ James Hannaham (7 September 2011). "Fall Arts: Book Picks". The Village Voice. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b Bill Blakemore (20 May 2012). "'The Great Big Book of Horrible Things': WWII and Climate Change". ABC News. Retrieved 13 November 2013.

External links[edit]