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11 Mar 2011 - 11 Sep 2021
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Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century
Alphabetical Index
Site Index
This is an incomplete listing of some very bad things that happened before the 20th Century. I've scoured the history books and collected most of the major atrocities that anyone has bothered to enumerate.
However, just because an event is missing from these pages doesn't mean that it wasn't very bloody. There are undoubtedly many other events that were never recorded and have now faded into the oblivion of forgotten history. This makes it difficult to prove whether brutality is waxing or waning in the long term. Maybe the 20th Century really was more barbaric than previous centuries (as some people say), but you'll need more complete statistics to prove it. [n.1]
(Possibly) The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
RankDeath TollCauseCenturies
166 millionSecond World War20C
240 millionMao Zedong (mostly famine)20C
40 millionGenghis Khan13C
427 millionBritish India (mostly famine)19C
525 millionFall of the Ming Dynasty17C
620 millionTaiping Rebellion19C
20 millionJoseph Stalin20C
818½ millionMideast Slave Trade7C-19C
917 millionTimur Lenk14C-15C
1016 millionAtlantic Slave Trade15C-19C
1115 millionFirst World War20C
15 millionConquest of the Americas15C-19C
1313 millionAn Lushan Revolt8C
1410 millionXin Dynasty1C
10 millionCongo Free State19C-20C
169 millionRussian Civil War20C
177½ millionThirty Years War17C
7½ millionFall of the Yuan Dynasty14C
197 millionFall of Rome5C
7 millionChinese Civil Wars20C
Buy the Book!
Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History

What other people say:
World Historical Population
For perspective
Population of the World In Millions
1991 Information Please AlmanacLivi-Bacci Concise History of World Population, 2nd, 1997Colin McEvedy Atlas of World Population History 1978United Nations 1999
BCE 400153
CE 1252170300
(See also​http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html and​http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/sixbillion/sixbilpart1.pdf​and​http://www.prb.org/Content/ContentGroups/PTarticle/0ct-Dec02/How_Many_People_Have_Ever_Lived_on_Earth_.htm​)
Western Wars, Tyrants, Rebellions and Massacres (800-1700 CE)
Before the rise of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the rest of the gang, these atrocities were the bywords of barbarism. Now that populations have gotten bigger and body counts have grown proportionally, they don't seem that bad; however, this says more about us than it does about them.
  1. Charlemagne (768-814 CE)
    Gibbon Decline & Fall v5, also Trager, People's Chronology​: 4,500 Saxon hostages beheaded (782 CE)
  2. Wars of the Carolingian Succession (840-843 CE)
    Gibbon Decline and Fall vol.5, Ch. XLIX: The wars killed 100,000 Franks
  3. William the Conqueror​, (r.1066-87) the Harrying of the North: 100,000 [make link]
    Ordericus Vitalis, The ecclesiastical history of England and Normandy (written ca. 1110-1142) Trans. Thomas Forester (H.G. Bohn, 1854) vol. 2, p.28
    While putting down a rebellion in northern England, "Insurgents fell beneath his vengeful sword, he levelled their places of shelter to the ground, wasted their lands, and burnt their dwellings with all they contained.... In the fullness of his wrath he ordered the corn and cattle... to be collected in heaps and set on fire till the whole was consumed... There followed, consequently, so great a scarcity in England in the ensuing years [1068-1070], and severe famine involved the innocent and unarmed population in so much misery, that... more than a hundred thousand souls, of both sexes and all ages, perished of want."
  4. Crusades (1095-1291) 3,000,000 [make link]
    • Estimated totals:
      • Robertson, John M., A Short History of Christianity (1902) p.278: 9,000,000
      • Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual​: 5,000,000
      • Henry William Elson, Modern Times and the Living Past, (1921) p. 261: 5,000,000
      • Om Prakesh Jaggi, Religion, Practice and Science of Non-violence​, (1974) p. 40: "The crusades cost Europe five million young men"
      • Fielding Hudson Garrison, Notes on the History of Military Medicine​, Association of Military Surgeons, (1922) p. 106: 3,000,000 total, incl. 2,000,000 Europeans
      • MEDIAN: 3 million
      • Philip Alexander Prince, Parallel universal history, an outline of the history and biography of the world divided into ... (1838) p.207: "Although two million souls perished in the Crusades..."
      • Charles Mackay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841): 2,000,000 Europeans killed. [​http://www.bootlegbooks.com/NonFiction/Mackay/PopDelusions/chap09.html​]
      • Wertham: 1,000,000
      • John Shertzer Hittell, A Brief History of Culture (1874) p.137: "In the two centuries of this warfare one million persons had been slain..."
      • NOTE: No scholar has ever published a death toll of less than one million or more than nine million, so the order of magnitude is generally accepted even if the precise number is unknown.
    • Individual Events:
      • Davies: Crusaders killed up to 8,000 Jews in Rhineland
      • Paul Johnson A History of the Jews (1987): 1,000 Jewish women in Rhineland comm. suicide to avoid the mob, 1096.
      • Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, v.5, 6
        • 1st Crusade: 300,000 Eur. k at Battle of Nice [Nicea].
        • Crusaders vs. Solimon of Roum: 4,000 Christians, 3,000 Moslems
        • 1098, Fall of Antioch: 100,000 Moslems massacred.
        • 50,000 Pilgrims died of disease.
        • 1099, Fall of Jerusalem: 70,000 Moslems massacred.
        • Siege of Tiberias: 30,000 Christians k.
        • Siege of Tyre: 1,000 Turks
        • Richard the Lionhearted executes 3,000 Moslem POWs.
        • 1291: 100,000 Christians k after fall of Acre.
        • Fall of Christian Antioch: 17,000 massacred.
        • [TOTAL: 677,000 listed in these episodes here.]
      • Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) [​http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/​]
        Jaffa: 20,000 Christians massacred, 1197
      • Sorokin estimates that French, English & Imperial German Crusaders lost a total of 3,600 in battle.
        • 1st C (1096-99): 400
        • 2nd C (1147-49): 750
        • 3rd C (1189-91): 930
        • 4th C (1202-04): 120
        • 5th C (1228-29): 600
        • 7th C (1248-54): 700
      • James Trager, The People's Chronology (1992)
        • 1099: Crusaders slaughter 40,000 inhabs of Jerusalem. Dis/starv reduced Crusaders from 300,000 to 60,000.
        • 1147: 2nd Crusades begins with 500,000. "Most" lost to starv./disease/battle.
        • 1190: 500 Jews massacred in York.
        • 1192: 3rd Crusade reduced from 100,000 to 5,000 through famine, plagues and desertions in campaign vs Antioch.
        • 1212: Children's Crusade loses some 50,000.
        • [TOTAL: Just in these incidents, it appears the Europeans lost around 650,000.]
  5. Albigensian Crusade (1208-49) 1,000,000 [make link]
    • The traditional death toll given for the war against the Cathars is one million, which is repeated in these:
      • John M. Robertson, A Short History of Christianity​, London: Watts, 1902, p.254 ("It has been reckoned that a million of all ages and both sexes were slain.")
      • Christopher Brookmyre, Not the End of the World (New York: Grove Press, 1998) p.39
      • Max Dimont, Jews, God, and History, (New York: Penguin, 1994) p.225: 1,000,000 Frenchmen suspected of being Albigensians slain
      • Dizerega Gus, Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2001) p.195
      • Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History (Orlando, FL: Morningstar & Lark, 1995) p.74
      • Michael Newton, Holy Homicide (Port Townsend, WA: Loompanics Unlimited, 1998) p.117
    • Rummel: 200,000 democides
    • Individual incidents:
      • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 20,000 massacred in Beziers.
      • Ellerbe:
        • Beziers: 20-100,000
        • St. Nazair: 12,000
        • Tolouse: 10,000
      • Newton: 20-100,000 massacred in Beziers.
      • Sumption, Albigensian Crusade (1978): <5,000 k. by Inquisition [ca. 1229-1279]
  6. Padua, Tyranny of Ezzelino da Romano (fl. 1237-1259)
    • Lonsdale Ragg, Dante and His Italy (London: Methuen, 1907), p. 127: "It is calculated that Ezzelino alone must have put to death (and usually with torture) a total of at least 55,000 people."
    • Colin Wilson, The Mammoth Book of the History of Murder: As ruler, 5,000 inhabitants of Padua executed. After loosing power, all but 200 of 10,000 Paduan POWs, executed.
  7. Sicilian Vespers (1282)
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 2,000 k. 1st day.
    • Davies: 4,000 Fr. k. in Palermo
    • Gibbon D&F6: 8,000 French
  8. Hundred Years War (1337-1453) 3,000,000 [make link]
    • English + French battlefield losses: 185,250 (Sorokin)
    • Total Loss:
      • Philip Pregill, Landscapes in History, 2d Ed.: Population of France began at ca. 19M; by end of 100 Yrs War, had declined by one-third. [i.e. loss of ca. 6.3 million]
      • Frederic J. Baumgartner, France in the Sixteenth Century​: Population of France 20M in 1340, 10M a century later. [loss of 10 million]
      • Henry Heller, Labour, Science and Technology in France 1500-1620​: 17M at beginning of 14th Century; 9M in 1440. [loss of 8 M]
      • NOTE: This period also includes the Black Death, so there's no telling how much of this population decline was war-related, although all three of these sources specifically point the 100YW as a principle cause.
      • ANALYSIS: It's usually said that the Black Death killed 1/3 of the affected populations, so we can guess that France should have lost 5.7M of Heller's 17M or 6.3M of Pregill's 19M or 6.7M of Baumgartens' 20M to the plague alone. The difference between this and the actual population decline might then be attributed to the 100YW. This would mean the war may have killed 0.0M (Presgill) or 2.3M (Heller) or 3.3M (Baumg.)
  9. Spain
    Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages, p.257 (citing Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, i.342): 400,000 Moors killed at the battle of Rio Salado, 1341
  10. West Europe (1348)
    Jews killed as scapegoats for Black Death
    • Trager, People's Chronology​: 2,000 hanged in Strasbourg
    • Davies: 2,000 in Strasbourg; as many as 12,000 in Mainz
    • Paul Johnson A History of the Jews (1987): 2,000 in Strasbourg; 6,000 in Mainz
  11. France, Jacquerie Revolt (1358)
    Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 7,000 peasant massacred in Meaux
  12. England​, Wat Tyler's Rebellion (1381)
    Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 1,500 peasants executed
  13. General Religious Mayhem:
    • An oft-repeated or summarized passage in religious polemics of the 19th Century. The earliest I found is this p.6, The Second Advent, Or Coming of the Messiah in Glory by Elias Boudinot (1815)
      "Dr Moore in his divine dialogues 161, and in his mystery of Iniquity, lib. 2d, ch. 15, 10, says, 'Pope Julius was in seven years the occasion of the slaughter of two hundred thousand Christians — the massacre in France cut off one hundred thousand in three months — P. Peronius avers that in the persecution of the Albigenscs and Waldenses one million lost their lives — from the establishment of the Jesuits till the year 1580, about 30 or 40 years, Balduinus says, nine hundred thousand perished — the Duke of Alva, by the hangman, put to death thirty-six thousand — Vergerius affirms that the Inquisition, in thirty years, destroyed one hundred and fifty thousand — to this I may add the Irish rebellion in the last century, in which thirty thousand were destroyed, as tho Lord Orrery reports in a paper printed in the reign of kin Charles Sd."
    • From Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual (1897)
  14. Witch Hunts (1400-1800) [make link]
    • Wertham: 20,000
    • Jenny Gibbons "Recent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt", Pomegranate​, no.5, Lammas 1998 [​http://www.interchg.ubc.ca/fmuntean/POM5a1.html​] cites:
      • Levack: 60,000
      • Hutton: 40,000
      • Barstow: 100,000, "but her reasoning was flawed" (i.e. too high.)
    • Davies, Norman, Europe A History: 50,000
    • Rummel: 100,000
    • Bethancourt: The Killings of Witches​, lists 628 named and 268,331 unnamed witches killed as of Dec. 2000, and estimates that between 20,000 and 500,000 people were killed as witches. [​http://www.illusions.com/burning/burnwitc.htm?​]
    • M. D. Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual (1897): 9,000,000 burned for witchcraft.
    • 5 Jan. 1999 Deutsche Presse-Agentur: review of Wolfgang Behringer's Hexen: Glaube - Verfolgung - Vermarktung​:
      • estimates cited favorably
        • Thomas Brady: 40-50,000
        • Merry Wiesner: 50-100,000
        • Behringer, at lowest: 30,000
      • estimates cited unfavorably
        • Gottfried Christian Voigt (1740-1791) extrapolated from his section of Germany to calculate 9,442,994 witches killed throughout Europe. From this came the common estimate of 9M.
        • Mathilde Ludendorff (1877-1966): 9M
        • Friederike Mueller-Reimerdes (1935): 9-10M
        • Erika Wisselinck: 6-13 Million
    MEDIAN: Of the 15 estimate listed here, the median is 100,000. If we limit it to just the ten estimates that are cited favorably, the median falls between 50,000 and 60,000.
  15. England​, War of the Roses (1455-85) [make link]
    • Charles Carlton: Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars 1638-1651 (1992)
      • citing Thomas Craig in the 16th C.: 100,000
      • citing Thomas More: killed more English than the 100 yrs War
    • Clodfelter: 105,000
    • Terence Wise, The Wars of the Roses (1983): Tudor historians exaggerated death toll as propaganda
  16. Vlad Dracula​, Wallachia (r.1456-1462) [make link]
    • Florescu & McNally, Dracula: Prince of Many Faces: 100,000 k. (citing Bishop of Erlau, but questioning it.)
    • Cecil Adams: 40-100,000 [​http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_131.html​]
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: in all, 50,000-100,000 victims "impaled, tortured and killed"
  17. Turkish War (1456+)
    200,000 Turks slain in various battles following their failure at the Siege of Belgrade, 1456 (The chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet​, p.365)
  18. Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) [make link]
    • Cited in Will Durant, The Reformation (1957):
      • Juan Antonio Llorente, General Secretary of the Inquisition from 1789 to 1801, estimated that 31,912 were executed, 1480-1808.
      • In contrast to the high estimate cited above, Durant tosses his support to the following low estimates:
        • Hernando de Pulgar, secretary to Queen Isabella, estimated 2,000 burned before 1490.
        • An unnamed "Catholic historian" estimated 2,000 burned, 1480-1504, and 2,000 burned, 1504-1758.
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 8,800 deaths by burning, 1478-1496
    • Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1910): 8,800 burnt in 18 years of Torquemada. (acc2 Buckle and Friedländer)
    • Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic​: 10,220 burnt in 18 years of Torquemada
    • Britannica: 2,000
    • Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual​: 35,534 burned.
    • Fox's Book of Martyrs, Ch.IV: 32,000 burned
    • Paul Johnson A History of the Jews (1987): 32,000 k. by burning; 20,226 k. before 1540
    • Wertham: 250,000
    • Rummel: 350,000 deaths overall.
    • MEDIAN: 8,800 under Torq.; 32,000 all told.
    • Punished by all means, not death.
      • Fox: 309,000
      • P. Johnson: 341,000
      • Motley: 114,401
  19. Lisbon (1506)
    Trager, People's Chronology​: 2,000-4,000 converted Jews k. in riot.
  20. Tudor England [make link]
    • Henry VIII (r.1509-47)
      • Lacey Baldwin Smith, Treason in Tudor England (1986): total of 308 traitors executed, 1532-40
      • Holinshed, Description of England​: 72,000 "great thieves, petty thieves, and rogues" hung under Henry. Traitors and enemies of the state are implicitly excluded from this total. [​http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1577harrison-england.html#Chapter XVII]
        NOTE: Although it's common to accuse Henry of 72,000 executions, the description of his victims sometimes drifts from common criminals to Catholics​, and the venue from nationwide to just Tyburn gallows in London.
      • Rummel: 560 executions per year (i.e. ca. 21,840)
    • Mary I (r.1553-58)
      • Lacey Baldwin Smith: 132 traitors executed under Q M
      • Morgan, Oxford History of Britain: >287 Protestants after 2/1555, and "others died in prison."
    • Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603)
      • Lacey Baldwin Smith: 183 traitors executed under Q E
      • Catholic Encyclopedia: 189 Catholics executed + 32 Franciscans were starved to death = 221 [​http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05445a.htm​]
  21. Peasants​' War, Hungary (1514) [make link]
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: >70,000 deaths in all
    • Frederick Engels, The Peasant War in Germany​: 60,000 peasants k. in battle or massacred towards end [​http://csf.colorado.edu/psn/marx/Archive/1850-PWG/pwg3.html​]
  22. Germany​, Knights' War, von Sickingen (1519-1523)
    Wm Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire: 250,000 Germans killed or executed
  23. Peasants​' War, Germany (1524-25) [make link]
    • Dict.Wars: 100,000 peasants slain in the war
    • Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity (1977): 100,000
    • Encyclopedia.com: 100,000 peasants k. [​http://www.encyclopedia.com/articlesnew/35982.html​]
    • Wm Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire: 100,000 peasants d.
    • Douglas Miller: Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524-26​: 70-100,000 peasants
  24. Ivan the Terrible​, Russia, (r.1533-84) [make link]
    • Novgorod Massacre, 1570: 60,000 people killed. (Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History)
    • Decimated boyars, "killing hundreds, probably even thousands" (Richard Dunn, The Age of Religious Wars 1559-1715​)
    • Henri Troyat, Ivan the Terrible
      • Toward the end of his life, Ivan drew up lists of all the victims he could remember and sent these to monasteries for prayers. One listed 3,148 people killed; another 3,750.
      • Novgorod Massacre (various estimates):
        • Kurbsky: 15,000
        • 3rd Chronicle of Novgorod​: 18,000
        • Taube & Kruse: 27,000
        • 1st Chronicle of Pskov: 60,000
      • Troyat says that Ivan's gang of special thugs, the oprichniki, numbered 6000, and lasted for seven years. My analysis: If each one killed at least one person every year (Very possible. They were a pampered, unregulated and thoroughly nasty bunch), that's over 42,000 deaths.
    • Rummel: 200,000 not incl. Novgorod.
  25. Persecution of the Waldenses (1540s) [make link]
    • Halley's Bible Handbook​, 24th ed. (1965): 900,000 k. in 30 years (1540-70)
    • The Cambridge Modern History by Acton, et al. (1904) p.290: 3,000 massacred and 22 villages destroyed in 1545.
  26. Dutch Revolt (1566-1609) [make link]
    • Gibbon Decline & Fall v2: 100,000 executed under Charles V, in Netherlands
    • John Lothrop Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic (1855)
      • Alva boasted of 18,600 executions in Neth.
      • Sack of Antwerp (1576): 8,000 k
    • Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1910) [​http://ebed.etf.cuni.cz/mirrors/ccel/ccel/s/schaff/history/2_ch02.htm#_edn54​]
      Dutch martyrs under the Duke of Alva: 50,000 (acc2 P. Sarpi) or 100,000 (acc2 Grotius)
    • Britannica, 11th ed. (1911) "Alva": Duke of Alva boasted of executing 18,000 persons in 6 years, not incl. k. battles and massacres.
    • Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity (1977): 100,000 k. by Alva
    • Halley's Bible Handbook​, 24th ed. (1965): 100,000 massacred under Charles V and Philip II
  27. France, Religious Wars, Catholic vs. Huguenot (1562-1598) 3,000,000 [make link]
    Robert J. Knecht The French Religious Wars, 1562-1598 (2000): Deaths during the wars estimated at 2M to 4M
  28. St. Bartholomew's Massacre​, France (1572) [make link]
    • Encarta hedges its bets by giving the death toll as 2 to 100 thousand.
    • The 15th edition of Britannica (1992) does too: 2 to 70 thousand, although it explains that the low number comes from an unnamed "Catholic apologist", while the high number comes from a contemporary Huguenot, Duke de Sully
    • The 11th edition of Britannica (1911) was more certain: 50,000 in the whole of France
    • Davies: 2,000 in Paris
    • Catholic Encyclopedia: 2000 in Paris; 6000-8000 nationwide
    • Richard Dunn, The Age of Religious Wars 1559-1715​: 3,000 k in Paris, 10,000 k in provinces.
    • Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History: 10,000
    • Fox's Book of Martyrs, Ch.IV: 10,000 in Paris; 6,000 in Rouen; 100,000 nationwide.
    • Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic​: 5,000 k in Paris, 25,000-100,000 nationwide.
    • Rummel: 36,000 democides
    • Trager, People's Chronology​: 50,000
    • MEDIAN: 3,000 in Paris; 36,000 nationwide
  29. Russo-Tatar War (1571) [make link]
    • Henri Troyat, Ivan the Terrible (1984) p.144: Half million.
    • The Burning of Moscow: The English ambassador, Giles Fletcher, reported that 800,000 Muscovites died in the fire and panic. More realistically, the peacetime population of Moscow had been counted as 100,000; then after the fire, in 1580, the papal ambassador reported only 30,000 inhabitants. (B.G. Williams, The Crimean Tatars (2001), p. 50; Isabel de Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible (2005) p. 266.
  30. Spanish Armada (1588) [make link]
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: half of the 30,000 Spanish sailors, sailors etc. lost. 100 English KIA and 3,000 dead from food poisoning.
    • VD Hanson: Carnage and Culture (2001): 20,000-30,000 d.
  31. Russia, Time of Troubles (1598-1613) 5,000,000 [make link]
    • Duffy & Ricci, Czars: Russia's Rulers for over One Thousand Years, p.174: "Although no reliable figures exist, the population is estimated to have plummeted during the Time of Troubles from 14 million to 9 million."
    • Cooper, New Cambridge Modern History, 1979, p.602: “The Troubles had cost some two and a half million lives.”
  32. Transylvania​, Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1604-1611)
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 650 girls killed for their blood.
    • Cecil Adams: 610 [​http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_131.html​]
  33. The Thirty Years War (1618-48) 7,500,000 [make link]
    • Population Loss
      • R.J. Rummel: 11.5M total deaths in the war (half democides)
      • Norman Davies, Europe, p.568: 8 million
      • Richard Dunn, The Age of Religious Wars 1559-1715​: After the war, the empire was 7-8 million fewer than before
      • C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (1938): "The old legend that the population dropped from sixteen to four million people, rests on imagination: both figures are incorrect. The German Empire, including Alsace but excluding the Netherlands and Bohemia, probably numbered about twenty-one millions in 1618, and rather less than thirteen and a half millions in 1648. [A loss of 7½ million.] Certain authorities believe that the loss was less, but these are for the most part writers of a militaristic epoch, anxious to destroy the ugly scarecrow which throws so long a shadow over the glorious past."
      • Alan McFarlane, The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap (2003): Population of Germany went from 21M to13.5M. [a loss of 7.5M]
      • John Landers, The Field and the Forge, p.352: 5-6m
      • Geoffrey Parker, The Thirty Years War (New York: Routledge, 1984, 1997) p.188: “Earlier estimates that the war destroyed half or two-thirds of the German population are no longer accepted. More recent estimates are much more conservative, suggesting that the population of the Holy Roman Empire may have declined by about 15 to 20 per cent, from some 20 million before the war to about 16 or 17 million after it.” [a loss of 3 or 4 million]
      • Colin McEvedy, Atlas of World Population History (1978)
        • "Germany" [modern boundaries] p.68: 2M fewer.
        • "Czechoslovakia" [1978 boundaries] p.84-85: decline from 4.5m to 3.75m [.75m fewer]
      • MEDIAN: Of the six estimates of the overall loss of population, the median is 7½M.
    • Military Deaths
      • Clodfelter: "one source" estimates 350,000 k. in battle
      • Fuller, A Military History of the Western World: 350,000 k.
      • Corvisier, Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War, p.469: 600,000 military deaths.
      • Urlanis
        • K. in Battle: 180,000
        • Military. Killed and died: 600,000
      • Levy, War in the Modern Great Power System: 2,071,000 battle d.
  34. British Isles, 1641-52 [make link]
    • English Civil War
      • Charles Carlton, Going to the Wars: the experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651 (1992)
        • England & Wales: 190,000
          • Total k. in recorded fights: 84,830
            • Parliament: 34,130
            • Royalist: 50,700
          • War-related diseases, soldiers & civilians: 100,000
          • Bishop's Wars: 1,000
          • Accidents: ca. 500
          • (Thomas Hobbes est. 100,000 d. from fighting & disease.)
        • Scotland: 60,000
          • Total k. in recorded fights: 27,895
            • Parliament: 16,245
            • Royalist: 11,765
          • [Disease: ca. 30,000], incl. ca. 10,000 POWs who never came home
        • Ireland: 618,000 [see below for details.]
        • TOTAL: 868,000
      • Leslie Clarkson, Death Disease & Famine in Pre-industrial England (1975): 100,000 Englishmen, 1642-46 (citing another unnamed author, and doubting that this refers to battle deaths alone -- must include deaths by all causes)
      • Sorokin: 50,500 battle losses, all sides, 1642-51
    • Ireland
      • Charles Carlton, Going to the Wars (1992)
        Petty's 1672 estimate of dead in Ireland, covering 10/1641-10/1653:
        • Protestants d. by war, dis., malnu.: 112,000, incl. 37,000 massacred at outbreak. Carlton says that 37,000 is exaggeration by factor of 9 or 10.
        • Catholic d.: 504,000
        • Total: 618,000 [sic.]
      • Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, v.2 (1955): 500,000
      • R.F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (1988)
        • Irish population decline from 2.0M (ca. 1640) to 1.7M (1672) [i.e.: 300,000]
        • 1641: 4,000 k. in Ulster
      • Pitirim Sorokin:
        • The Sociology of Revolution (1967): 100,000 to 200,000 Irish massacred, 1651
        • Social and Cultural Dynamics, vol.3: 5,500 battle losses, 1649-52
      • Hirst, Authority & Conflict: England, 1603-1658 (1986): Ulster rebellion, 1641: 4,000 Protestants k. immediately + 8,000 refugees died in winter.
      • Morgan, Oxford History of Britain: Ulster rebellion, 1641: 3,000 Protestants k.
  35. France, The Fronde (1648-53)
    Clodfelter: >50,000, only a fraction in battle
  36. Poland, The Deluge (1648-67)
    • Richard C. Frucht, ed., Eastern Europe: an introduction to the people, lands, and culture, Volume 1 (ABC-CLIO, 2005) p. 14, “After the wars of the mid-seventeenth century, the [Polish-Lithuanian] Commonwealth was exhausted. Its population had fallen from 10 million in 1648 to 6 million in 1668.”
    • Dnieper Cossack Rebellion under Chmielnicki (1648-54):
      • Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews: 100,000 Jews k.
      • Lipman: 100,000 Jews k. [​http://www.jewishgates.org/history/jewhis/chmiel.stm​]
      • Clodfelter: 150,000-200,000 Jews k. in pogrom, Ukraine, 1648-49
  37. England (17th C)
    LOC [​http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01-2.html​]: 243 Quakers died in jail of mistreatment, 1652-80
  38. Russia, (1667-71)
    Razin Rebellion in Volga area: 100,000 serfs d. (Richard Dunn, The Age of Religious Wars 1559-1715​)
  39. Franco-Dutch War (1672-78)
    Levy: 342,000
  40. New England​, King Philip's War (1675-76)
    1992 Britannica: 3,000 Indians and 600 settlers.
  41. Habsburg-Ottoman War (1682-99)
    • Clodfelter: 120,000 k.
    • Levy: 384,000
  42. Russia, Peter the Great (Pyotr Alekseyevich, r.1682-1721) [make link]
    • George Vernadsky (Kievan Russia, 1948) contrasts P. N. Miliukov's estimate that the population of Russia declined from 16 million in 1676 (rough guess) to 13 million in 1725 (well documented), with P. P. Smirnov's assertion that the population remained stagnant at 13 million throughout Peter's reign.
    • Nicholas Valentine Riasanovsky, Image of Peter the Great in Russian History and Thought​, p.178, claims that Russia’s population declined by 20%
    • David Ralston, Importing the European army: the introduction of European military (1996) p.29: Taxable households declined from 800,000 in 1678 to 640,000 in 1710. Causes given as flight, "hundreds of thousands" of deaths, and tax evasion.
    • Peter Neville, A Traveller's History of Russia and the USSR
      • Worker deaths during the building of St. Petersburg: "[C]ontemporary estimates gave a figure of 100,000 dead which is an exaggeration, but a figure of 30,000 is quite probable."
      • After 1699 revolt, 1,200 strelsky (musketeers) were killed.
  43. War of the League of Augsburg (1688-97)
    Levy: 680,000
  44. (For the 18th Century, see wars18c.htm
  45. (For the 19th Century, see wars19c.htm​)
  46. (For the 20th Century, see 20c5m.htm​, et seq.)
Medieval wars as a whole:
Pitirim Sorokin estimated that Europeans lost some 435,000 men on the battlefield between 900 and 1450 CE:
Total War Dead Throughout History
I haven't the foggiest, but here's an interesting essay on the subject: The Great "War Figures" Hoax: an investigation in polemomythology
The Conquest of the Americas
[make link]
Estimate Death Toll from war, murder, genocide, aggravated disease and avoidable famine: 15 million (Matthew White, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (W. W. Norton, 2012)
The number of Indians who died at the hands of the European invaders is highly debatable, and it basically centers on two questions:
  1. How many people lived in America before the population plummeted?
  2. How many of the deaths during the plummeting can be blamed on human cruelty?
Pre-Columbian Population:
Pick a number, any number.
Sometimes it seems that this is the way historians decide how many Indians lived in the Americas before the European Contact. As The New York Public Library American History Desk Reference puts it, "Estimates of the Native American population of the Americas, all completely unscientific, range from 15 to 60 million." And even this cynical assessment is wrong. The estimates range from 8 to 145 million.
If you want to study the question of pre-Columbian population and its subsequent decline in detail, two good books to start with are David Henige, Numbers From Nowhere (1998) and Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival (1987).
Population of the Western Hemisphere in 1492 according to various experts:
The problem, of course, is that by the time that the Europeans got around to counting the Indians, there were a lot fewer to count
I've graphed the estimates chronlogically to show that the passage of time and the gathering of more information is still not leading toward a consensus. Over the past 75 years, estimates have bounced around wildly and ended up right back where they started -- around 40 million.
I've also graphed the population of Europe in 1500 because this is magic number to which many of the estimates aspire. Native American history is traditionally treated as marginal -- a handful of primitive kingdoms that were easily overwhelmed by the most dynamic civilization on Earth -- but if it could somehow be proven that the Americas had even more people than Europe, then history would be turned upside down. The European conquest could be treated as the tail wagging the dog, like the Barbarian invasions of Rome, a small fringe of savages decending on the civilized world, wiping out or enslaving the bulk of humanity.
The advocates of large numbers, however, are often their own worst enemies. On page 33 of American Holocaust​, David Stannard declares, "[P]robably about 25,000,000 people, or about seven times the number living in all of England, were residing in and around the great Valley of Mexico at the time of Columbus's arrival in the New World".
Now, I've been to England, and I can vouch that the English have left their mark on the land. You can't throw a brick in England without hitting some relic of the earlier inhabitants -- castles, cathedrals, Roman walls and roads, Stonehenge, etc. -- not to mention books, tools, coins, weapons and all the little pieces of the past that turn up anytime someone plows a field or cleans their attic.
Now go back and read what Stannard has written. I'm sure that the point that he's trying to make is that since there were seven times as many Mexicans as English, truly the Mexicans were seven times more civilized than the English, so if anyone deserved to be called "savages", it's the English. Unfortunately, the point that nags at me is "If there were seven times as many people in Mexico, shouldn't there be seven times as many relics in Mexico?" Yes, I've read the archaeological reports that discuss irrigation systems, and I've seen the big, colorful picture books showing jungle-encrusted ruins of ancient pyramids, but the fact is that seven times the population of England should have left behind a lot more stuff than that.
I find the estimates for Virginia even more awkward because I live here. Stannard estimates the population of Powhatan's Confederation at 100,000, yet there's not a single site in the Virginia Tidewater that remotely hints at the complex infrastructure necessary to support even half this number. There's not one ruin of any permanent building. Artifacts of any kind are rare -- barely even a single burial mound worth pilfering. And it's not like there's some forgotten ghost town deep in the desert or jungle waiting to be discovered. This is Virginia. It's been settled, plowed and excavated for 400 years.
I also find it difficult to believe that the Europeans obliterated all traces of the earlier inhabitants. After all, I've been to Germany too. I've seen that bombed-out cities still have a substantial presence of the past, and I doubt that the conquistadores could be more destructive than a flock of B-17s. [n.3]
In any case, the median of all the estimates charted above is 40 million. It's the type of number that half the experts would consider impossibly big, and the other half would consider impossibly low, so it's probably exactly right.
And then, within a century of the European Contact, the hemispheric population plunged to a fairly well-proven residue of less than 10 million. How many of these deaths count as indictable atrocities?
The Death Toll:
In American Holocaust​, Stannard estimates the total cost of the near-extermination of the American Indians as 100,000,000.
The problem here (aside from the question of whether there were even this many people in hemisphere at all) is that Stannard doesn't differentiate between death by massacre and death by disease. He blames the Europeans for bringing new diseases which spread like wildfire -- often faster than than the Europeans themselves -- and depopulated the continent. Since no one disputes the fact that most of the native deaths were caused by alien diseases to which they had never developed immunity, the simple question of categorization is vital.
Traditionally we add death by disease and famine into the total cost of wars and massacres (Anne Frank, after all, died of typhus, not Zyklon-B, but she's still a victim of the Holocaust) so I don't see any problem with doing the same with the American genocides, provided that the deaths occurred after their society had already been disrupted by direct European hostility. If a tribe was enslaved or driven off its lands, the associated increase in deaths by disease would definitely count toward the atrocity (The chain of events which reduced the Indian population of California from 85,000 in 1852 to 18,000 in 1890 certainly counts regardless of the exact agent of death, because by this time, the Indians were being hunted down from one end of California to another.); however, if a tribe was merely sneezed on by the wrong person at first contact, it should not count.
Consider the Powhatans of Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, Stannard cites estimates that the population was 100,000 before contact. In the same paragraph, he states that European depredations and disease had reduced this population to a mere 14,000 by the time the English settled Jamestown in 1607. Now, come on; should we really blame the English for 86,000 deaths that occured before they even arrived? Sure, he hints at pre-Jamestown "depredations", but he doesn't actually list any. As far as I can tell, the handful of European ventures into the Chesapeake region before 1607 were too small to do much depredating, and in what conflicts there were, the Europeans often got the worst of it. [see http://www.mariner.org/baylink/span.html and http://www.nps.gov/fora/roanokerev.htm and http://coastalguide.com/packet/lostcolony01.htm​]
Think of it this way: if the Europeans had arrived with the most benign intentions and behaved like perfect guests, or for that matter, if Aztec sailors had been the ones to discover Europe instead of vice versa, then the Indians would still have been exposed to unfamiliar diseases and the population would still have been scythed by massive epidemics, but we'd just lump it into the same category as the Black Death, i.e. bad luck. (Curiously, the Black Death was brought to Europe by the Mongols. Should we blame them for it? And while we're tossing blame around willy-nilly, aren't the Native Americans responsible for introducing tobacco to the world -- and for the 90 million deaths which followed?)
Other Guesses:
I can't confidently estimate the number of unnatural deaths (i.e. indictable killings, as a result of violence and oppression, both direct [war, murder, execution] and indirect [famine, avoidable disease]) among Amerindians across the centuries, but as a guess, I'd say 20 million, for no reasons other than it's half of the original 40M, and it seems to be near the median of the 4 previous estimates. (Rummel, Barrett, Althea, Stannard)
Not the most solid grounds, I'll grant you.
Specific Events:
Chinese Population Crashes
Despite a few temporary interruptions, China has existed as a political entity longer than any other nation on Earth, and the civil servants of the Chinese Empire have been keeping detailed records for centuries.  Surprisingly, many fragments, copies and summaries survive — among them are sporadic census records going back several dynasties, showing the impact of war, plague, flood and famine. The following documented population collapses have been accepted as authentic by some scholars, but doubted by others.
Xin Dynasty/Red Eyebrows Revolt (interrupting the Han Dynasty: 9-24 C.E.) [make link]
Three Kingdoms (189-280 C.E.) [make link]
Rafe de Crespigny, "The Three Kingdoms and Western Jin: A history of China in the Third Century AD" (2003) [​http://www.anu.edu.au/asianstudies/decrespigny/3KWJin.html​]: The Han census of 140 C.E. counted 9.7 million households and almost 50 million individuals living in the empire.  When the Jin Dynasty counted the inhabitants in the reunified empire in 280 C.E. after a century of civil war, their census found only 2.5 million households and 16 million individuals. [a loss of 34 million]
An Lushan Revolt (756-763 CE) 13,000,000 [make link]
China, fall of the Yuan Dynasty (ca. 1368) [make link]
Mongol/Ming Transition
The Cambridge History of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907-1368​, 1994, p.622: The post-Mongol recovery of China’s population peaked in 1340 at 19.9 million housholds and 90 million people, but was reduced by late Yuan warfare to 13 million households and 60 million people by the end of the dynasty in 1368. [a loss of 30 million people]
China, fall of the Ming Dynasty (1618-44) [make link]
Miscellaneous Oriental Atrocities
Here are just a few of the estimates that are kicking around:
  1. China, Shang Dynasty (ca. 1750-1050 BCE) [make link]
    July 2003 Nat. Geographic​: 13,000 human sacrifices in last 250 years of rule (ca. 1300-1050 BCE)
  2. Assyrians
    Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (1935)
    • Shalmaneser III k. 16,000 Syrians in one battle
    • Sennacherib wiped out Babylon
    • Ashurbanipal bragged of burning 3,000 POWs
  3. Qin Shihuangdi (First Emperor of China: 221 to 210 BCE) [make link]
    Fitzgerald, China: a Short Cultural History, p.140: "Popular tradition has held his memory in undying hatred for building the Wall.... [T]he people repeat that a million men perished at the task..."
  4. India, Ashoka's Conquest of Kalinga (261 BCE)
    According to an Ashokan edict, "100,000 were slain and many times that number died". He was horrified by the slaughter, repented and converted to Buddhism. (​Historic India, Time-Life, 1968)
  5. China, Yellow Turban Revolt (184 CE) [make link]
    Etienne Balazs, Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy​, Yale University Press, 1965, p.193 (imperial repression killed half a million in 184 alone)
  6. China (4th-6thC CE)
    Empires Besieged: Timeframe AD 200-600
    • Hun (Xiongnu) attacks, 310 CE: 100,000 Chinese k.
    • Chinese rebels massacre 200,000 Huns (349 CE)
    • Coup against Ling (528 CE): 2,000 courtiers killed
  7. China, something? (600s CE):
    Komarova and Korotayev, "A Model of Pre-Industrial Demographic Cycle": 46M counted in census of 606; 12M counted in census of 627.
  8. Korea, Chinese Invasion (612 CE) [make link]
    Trager, People's Chronology​: 300,000 Chinese invade and only 2,700 return.
  9. Arab Outbreak​, et seq. (7th Century CE and beyond) [make link]
    • Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, v.5:
      • 661 CE - Disputed succession to Caliphate: Ali lost 25,000; Moawiyah (Muawiya) lost 45,000
      • Conquest of Yemen: 1200 Moslems k. in 1st assault; 10,000 Infidels k. in 2nd
      • Battle of Cadesia: 7,500 Saracens
      • 635 CE - Battle conquering Syria: 470 Arabs + 50,000 Romans k
      • 636 CE - Battle of Yermuk: 4,030 Moslems buried
      • 638 CE - 3,000 defenders k in siege of Allepo.
      • 642 CE - Siege of Alexandria: 23,000 Saracens
      • Battle of Xeres, Spain: 16,000 Saracens
      • Siege of Constantinople: 30,000
      • 838 CE - Siege of Amorium: 70,000 Moslem and 30,000 Christians.
      • Motassem sacrifices 200,000 lives
      • 929 CE - Carmathian rebellion in Arabia: 20,000 pilgrims left to die in the desert; 30,000 put to the sword in Mecca.
      • First Turkish raid into East Roman Empire: 130,000 Christians
      • 1076 CE - Atsiz the Carizmian conquers Jerusalem: 3,000 massacred
      • [TOTAL: 698,200 listed in these episodes here.]
    • Babek, fl. 817-837 C.E.: "scourge of the Caliphate... defeated six armies and occasioned the slaughter of a quarter million men..." (Percy Molesworth Sykes, A History of Persia, p.80)
    • Jews of Medina
      • Ronald Segal, Islam's Black Slaves: 600 Jewish men accused by Muhammad of betrayal and killed, ca. 624 CE.
      • PBS: all 700 men of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe were executed. [​http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/ma_jews.shtml​]
  10. Morocco (1035 CE):
    Some guy on Internet: 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez [​http://www.bh.org.il/Communities/Archive/Fez.asp​]
  11. Fang La Rebellion (China: 1120-22) [make link]
    Lieu, Manichaeism in Central Asia and China, p.135, citing an old Chinese source (​Ch'ing-ch'i K'ou-kuei​): 2 million
  12. Chinggis Khan (ruled 1206-27) 40,000,000 [make link]
    • Total Dead (in roughly descending order)
      Alan McFarlane, The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap (2003, p.50): Chinese population reduced to half in 50 years -- over 60 million people dying or failing to be replaced.
      John Man, Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection
      • The Jin (North China) recorded 7.6 million households in the early 13th Century. The first Mongol census in 1234 recorded 1.7 million housholds. Man interprets this as a population decline from 60 million to 10 million. (p.262)
      • Man make a rough guess that 1.25M people were killed in Khwarezm in two years-- that's 25% of 5M original inhabitants.
      Komarova and Korotayev, "A Model of Pre-Industrial Demographic Cycle": Oddly, they skip right over the Mongol invasion ("The Sung cycle was interupted quite artificially by exogenous forces"), but Fig. 13 ends with the population of China at about 102M in 1125, while Fig. 14 begins with 55M in 1250, a decline of over 45M.
      Matthew White, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (W. W. Norton, 2012)
      • The death toll of 40 million is "Loosely based on McEvedy, Atlas of World Population History. McEvedy states that the population of China declined by 35 million during the thirteenth century. Also, the population decline in the western regions of Mongol conquests adds up to 2.75 million. All in all, it seems that Eurasia had 37,750,000 fewer people in the wake of the Mongols. I’ve rounded that off to avoid faking too much precision." (White, Great Big Book, p.578)
      • "For now let’s forget the incredible body counts reported for individual atrocities and focus instead on overall estimates from modern demographers. By all accounts, the population of Asia crashed during Chinggis Khan’s wars of conquest. China had the most to lose, so China lost the most—anywhere from 30 to 60 million. The Jin dynasty ruling northern China recorded 7.6 million households in the early thirteenth century. In 1234 the first census under the Mongols recorded 1.7 million households in the same area. In his biography of Chinggis Khan, John Man interprets these two data points as a population decline from 60 million to 10 million. In The Atlas of World Population History, Colin McEvedy estimates that the population of China declined by 35 million as the Mongols subjugated the country during the thirteenth century. In The Mongols, historian David Morgan estimates the Chinese population (in both the north and the south) as 100 million before the conquest and 70 million after." (White, Great Big Book, p.123)
      Colin McEvedy, Atlas of World Population History (1978):
      • China Proper: In the text, he states that the population declined by 35 million as the Mongols reduced the country to subjugation during the 13th Century. In the Chart, the population drops from 115M to 85M between 1200 and 1300 CE. (p.172)
      • Iran: Charted population declined from 5.0M to 3.5M
      • Afghanistan: from 2.50M to 1.75M
      • Russia-in-Europe: 7.5M to 7M
      • This indicates a total population decline of some 37.75 million.
      David Morgan, The Mongols​, p. 83
      He estimates the Chinese population (in both the north and the south) as 100 million before the conquest and 70 million after (citing Langlois, China under Mongol Rule)
      MEDIAN: ca. 30 million.
      FAQ: Doesn't this include famine and disease? Yes, but why does that matter? The famine and disease were caused by the war, and we customarily include deaths from famine and disease among war dead. The Holocaust​? half the victims died from famine and disease in camps and ghettos. The American Civil War? two-thirds of the deaths were from camp disease. The recent Congo War? as much as 80% of the dead were from famine and disease. Andrew Jackson lost three family members to the Revolutionary War, not one of them by bullet. How about the slave trade? Almost all the deaths were caused by hunger, exhaustion and disease, almost none of it deliberate.
      R.J. Rummel accuses the Mongols of 29,927,000 democides in the 13th through 15th Centuries.
      Allen Howard Godbey, The Lost Tribes a Myth: Suggestions Towards Rewriting Hebrew History, p.385 (1974): "Genghis Khan is estimated to have destroyed twenty million people, Tamerlane twelve million."
      Jeremiah Curtin, The Mongols: A History, p.141: "From 1211 to 1223 in China and Tangut alone Jinghis and his assistants killed more than eighteen million five hundred thousand human beings."
      Humphrey Clarke, "How Bad Were The Mongols?": 11.5 million [​http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-bad-were-mongols.html​]
      The [London] Independent (18 Aug. 2001): >3M died during the creation of Genghis's empire.
    • Individual Events
      • Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004)
        • From the Washington Post's 4/4/4 review of Weatherford's Genghis Khan...: "It's estimated that 15 million died in the Mongols' five-year invasion of central Asia."
        • Weatherford himself doubts most of these high numbers:
          • "[N]ot merely exaggerated or fanciful -- they were preposterous."
          • "[T]he numbers have no basis in reality."
          • Persian chronicles report 1,747,000 k. a Nishapur
          • 1,600,000 killed at Herat in one estimate. An est. by Juzjani gives 2,400,000 k. at Herat.
          • "Later, more conservative scholars place the number of dead from Genghis Khan's invasion of central Asia at 15 million within five years [which] would require that each Mongol kill more than a hundred people." [Actually, in my opinion, that's a weak refutation. Killing a hundred people in five years is quite doable.]
      • Edward Gibbon, Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, vols.3 & 6
        • Zingis [Genghis]: conquest of Central Asia: 4,347,000 in 3 cities
          • Maru: 1,300,000
          • Herat: 1,600,000
          • Neisabour [Nishapur]: 1,747,000
        • Zingis: 160,000 Carizmians [Khwarizmi]
        • Baghdad: pyramid of 90,000 skulls
        • Cublai
          • 100,000 Chinese commit mass suicide to escape
          • 100,000 lost in expedition against Japan
      • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History:
        • 1.6M killed in Herat
        • 160,000 of the Shah's troops killed at Bokhara
      • Britannica 11th ed. (1911) "Jenghiz Khan"
        • Herat: 1.6M
        • Battle against Khwarizm: 160,000 Khw. k.
      • [FAQ: "How reliable are these numbers?"​]
  13. India, Muhammad Shah, Sultan of Kulbarga vs. Bukka I, Raya of Vijayanagar (1366) [make link]
    • A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar; A Contribution to the History of India, by Robert Sewell: 500,000 Hindus killed, most by massacre. [​http://www.blackmask.com/books23c/fevchdex.htm​]
    • Lonely Planet India, by Sarina Singh: "The Muslim historian Firishtah estimates that half a million 'infidels' were killed in the ensuing campaign."
  14. Timur Lenk (1369-1405) [make link]
    • TOTAL:
      • Peter Ford, “Ex-Russian Satellite Enjoys Setting Its Own Agenda,” Christian Science Monitor​, June 3, 1997: “Tamerlane… was responsible for the deaths of as many as 20 million people...”
      • Stephen Kinzer, "A Kinder, Gentler Tamerlane Inspires Uzbekistan," New York Times, November 10, 1997: “His Turkish and Mongol army is said to have killed 17 million men, women and children in his 14th century rampage…” [​http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/53/107.html​]
      • Dave Carpenter, "Barbaric Tamerlane anointed a whitewashed hero in Uzbekistan," Associated Press, January 5, 1998: “His armies… are estimated to have massacred as many as 17 million people.”
      • Colin McMahon, "The Rehabilitation of Tamerlane," Chicago Tribune​, January 17, 1999: "...an estimated death toll of as many as 17 million people..."
      • Jonathan Fenby, "Crossroads of conquest," Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, November 20, 1999: "...a local warrior with a limp from arrow wounds marched north, east, west and south to found an empire of his own on some 17 million corpses."
      • H.D.S. Greenway, "New waves across the steppes," Boston Globe, May 27, 1998: "He is said to have killed 15 million people..." (incl. 90,000 in Baghdad.)
      • Allen Howard Godbey, The Lost Tribes a Myth: Suggestions Towards Rewriting Hebrew History, p.385 (1974): "Genghis Khan is estimated to have destroyed twenty million people, Tamerlane twelve million."
      • Israel Smith Clare, Library of universal history: containing a record of the human ..., v.7, p.2474 (1906): "... his ambition and cruelty brought twelve million human beings to violent deaths..."
      • Ian McWilliam, "Uzbekistan Restores Samarkand To Boost Nationalist Pride," Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1994: "... a ruthless conqueror who, by one estimate at least, caused the deaths of about 7 million people."
    • Individual events:
      • Delhi (1398)
        • James Trager, The People's Chronology (1992): 100,000 Hindu prisoners massacred at Delhi
        • Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage​: 100,000 POWs massacred
      • Frank Smitha [​http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h13tt.htm​]
        • Isfahan: 70-100,000 massacred
        • Sabzavar: 2,000 slaves massacred
        • Baghdad (1401): 20,000
      • 1 Feb. 2005 History Today: "At Baghdad he had 90,000 of the inhabitants beheaded so that he could build towers with their skulls. At Sivas in Turkey, where he promised no bloodshed in return for surrender, he had 3,000 prisoners buried alive and pointed out that he had kept to the letter of his oath."
      • 9 Aug. 2004 Evening Standard (London) review of Marozzi's Tamerlane
        • Baghdad: 90,000
        • Isfahan: 70,000
        • outside Aleppo: 20,000
        • Delhi: more than 100,000 executions
      • The (London) Independent (1 June 1998): 5M k. in 6 mos. in 1398 in India
  15. Ottoman Empire (16th Century) [make link]
    • Civil War (1509-13)
      Selim the Grim massacres 40,000 Anatolian Shi'ites (Dict.Wars)
    • Conquest of Cyprus (1570)
      Capture of Fermagusta: 50,000 Tks k. (Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons​)
    • Battle of Lepanto: ca. 32,000-40,000 k. (see sources​)
    • Murad III. (r.1574-1595)
      11th ed. Britannica (1911): total of 100,000 offenders against the sultan's authority put to death.
  16. Campaign around Belgrade (1456): Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet by Enguerrand de Monstrelet, p.240: 200,000 Turks slain in campaign.
  17. Misc. events in the Muslim Conquest of India [make link]
    • [Frankly, the following sources don't inspire great confidence. Most are either just people on Internet, or scholars at foreign universities I've never heard of. Some actually sound like crazy people, but probably no crazier than some of the anti-Communist sources I've cited for those topics. If I find better sources, I'll drop these. Here's a free bit of advice to web writers: facts speak louder than insults. Every time you use sarcasm or loaded words like "coward", "murderer", "butcher", you endanger your credibility.]
    • Numbers mentioned by Aravindan Neelakandan [​http://www.geocities.com/hindoo_humanist/medieval.html?200528​]
      • Mahmud Gaznavi: At Somnath, >50,000 infidels k. At Mathura, <50,000 infidel men k. (citing arikh-i-Yamini of Utbi)
      • Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq: in Orissa, 100,000 men of Jajnagar tried to take refuge, but were massacred. (citing Sirat-i-Firoz Shahi)
      • Ala-ul-Din Khilji: At Kambayat, the Hindu men were slain and 20,000 maidens enslaved. [A 1:1 ratio of men:maidens would indicate 20,000 killed] At Chitoor: >20,000 Hindu women commit suicide to escape slavery at Muslim hands. (cited source: Abdulla Wassaf writes in his Tazjiyat-ul-Amsar wa Tajriyat)
      • Timur [see above]:
    • http://voi.org/books/htemples2/ch7.htm
      Sultãn Ahmad Shãh I Walî Bahmanî (AD 1422-1435) Vijayanagar "Whenever the number of slain amounted to twenty thousand, he halted three days, and made a festival celebration of the bloody event."
    • http://voi.org/books/siii/ch7.htm
      "The Bahmani sultans of Gulbarga and Bidar considered it meritorious to kill a hundred thousand Hindu men, women, and children every year."
    • http://voi.org/books//tfc/ch7.html
      "historian Koenraad Elst estimates that between the year 1000 and 1525, eighty million Hindus died at the hands of Muslim invaders, probably the biggest holocaust in the whole history of our planet. "
    • Koenraad Elst http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/irin/genocide.html​http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1999/3/1999-3-14.shtml​http://sarvadharma.org/Museum/Articles/islamicgenocide.htm
      • "8,000 women immolated themselves during Akbar's capture of Chittorgarh in 1568 (where this most enlightened ruler also killed 30,000 non-combatants)."
      • "Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central India (1347-1528) killed a hundred thousand Hindus, which they set as a minimum goal whenever they felt like "punishing" the Hindus; and they were only a third-rank provincial dynasty. The biggest slaughters took place during the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi (ca. 1000 CE); during the actual conquest of North India by Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants (1192 ff.); and under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526). The Moghuls (1526-1857), even Babar and Aurangzeb, were fairly restrained tyrants by comparison."
      • "Prof. K.S. Lal once estimated that the Indian population declined by 50 million under the Sultanate, but that would be hard to substantiate; research into the magnitude of the damage Islam did to India is yet to start in right earnest."
      • "the mountain range Hindu Koh, "Indian mountain", was renamed Hindu Kush, "Hindu-killer", when one cold night in the reign of Timur Lenk (1398-99), a hundred thousand Hindu slaves died there while on transport to Central Asia."
    • http://voi.org/books/tlmr/ch3.htm
      Brahmanabad. Qasim "sat on the seat of cruelty and put all those who had fought to the sword. It is said that about six thousand fighting men were slain, but according to others sixteen thousand were killed".
    • My Guess for the TOTAL
      • As I mentioned in my book, I've discovered that if you find the geometric mean of the outrageously high and the outrageously low, you often end up with a number that is quite reasonable. Let's take 80 million as our unbelievably high estimate (see above), but keep in mind that during the really nasty years of the conquest, the chronicles claim that Muslims were killing 100,000 infidels per year, so maintaining that frenzied and exhausting pace over the full 700 years of the Conquest would have killed only 70 million Hindus in total. If the invaders killed 80 million, this means they were killing more Hindus in the quiet years than they did in the violent years. Unlikely.
      • How low is too low? Could the conquest have killed, say, a mere 200,000? No. Even factoring exaggeration into the chronicles still leaves some pretty violent episodes. It was by no means unusual for ancient wars to kill a hundred thousand now and then, so even one such war every generation (3 per century) would have killed 2 million total.
      • That puts the likely death toll somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. I'll offer that as my estimted death toll, but it could easily be half or twice this (6-26M). This number may seem incredibly vague, based on nothing whatsoever, but it's probably no worse than the grand totals you see tossed around for Stalin or Slavery.
  18. Mughal India (1568)
    Akbar kills 30,000 defenders on the day Chitor fell. (Dirk H. A. Kolff, Naukar, Rajput, and Sepoy : The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market of Hindustan, 1450-1850​)
  19. Burma-Siam (1500s) [make link]
    • Voyage to Pegu, and Observations There, Circa 1583, Gaspero Balbi, "Sirian was an Imperiall Citie, where an Emperour resided, the Walls and Bulwarkes are ruined, by which one may see that it hath beene very strong, and almost impregnable; but Anno 1567. it was subdued by the King of Pegu, who to take it sent a million and an haife of men; and after he had besieged it two yeeres with the losse of halfe a million of his men, he tooke it by treason."
    • The new King Naresuan of Siam drove out the Burmese overlords in 1583. When the Burmese army returned, the Siamese beat them and killed 200,000. (Fred Arthur Neale, Narrative of a Residence at the Capital of the Kingdom of Siam, 1852, p.208
    • "For the King of Siam dying, left two sons, which were brought up in the King's court of Pegu. But flying from thence to Siam, the eldest called in the Malayan language, Raja api, or the Fiery King, and by the Portuguese the Black King, set up himself as King [Naresuan], against whom the King of Pegu sent his son the Prince, who was slain in these wars, and has been occasion of the destruction of the whole Kingdom, and many millions of Peguan lives. For the King sore grieved for the death of his son, caused his chief Peguan lords and soldiers (himself being of the kindred of the Brahma's) to be slain." (Journal of Peter Williamson Floris, quoted in Samuel Purchas, 1625, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrims Contayning a History of the World, in Sea Voyages and Lande-Travells by Englishmen​, p.326, spelling modernized)
  20. Korea, Japanese Invasion (1592-98) [make link]
    • Britannica, 11th ed. (1911) "Japan": cost something like a quarter million lives.
      at Sö-chhön: 38,700 heads taken.
    • Trager, People's Chronology​: 260,000
  21. Ottoman Empire (17th Century) [make link]
    • Mutiny (1631)
      20,000 mutineers k. (Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons​)
    • Conquest of Crete (1645-69)
      30,000 Tks + 12,000 Venetians k. in last 3 years of war (Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons​)
    • Rebellion, put down by Mehmed Köprülü (1656-61)
      Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History: 50,000 people k., mostly rebels
  22. Japan, Shimabara Rebellion (1638) [make link]
    • Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: All but 100 of the 20,000 rebels killed. Their opponents (the nobility) lost 10,000 in battle.
    • Dict.Wars: All but 105 of the 37,000 Christian rebels killed.
    • Britannica, 11th ed. (1911) "Japan": rebel force of 20,000 fighting men and 17,000 women and children wiped out, except for 105 POWs.
    • Catholic Encylopedia, "Japanese Martyrs" (1908): Persecution of Christians 1587-1660 killed 3,125 identifiable and 200-300,000 unnamed martyrs. [​http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09744a.htm​]
  23. Mughal Empire, Alamgir Aurangzeb (1681-1707) [make link]
    Nicolao Manucci, a Venetian mercenary, physician and diplomat living in India at the time (Manucci, Mogul India, p.96) estimated 100,000 of Aurangzeb’s men died every year during the war in the Deccan, along with 300,000 beasts of burden.  Between 1702 and 1704, two million civilians died of starvation within a couple of years.
    Manucci’s estimate is repeated with only minimal scepticism by Wolpert, New History of India, 4th ed., p. 167, ("... to which Alamgir devoted the last twenty-six years of his life [1681-1707] ... cost an estimated hundred thousand lives a year during its last decades=? 2.6 million?) and Clodfelter, v.1, p.56 (Maratha-Mogul Wars, 1646-1707: in the later years, the annual death toll was 100,000)
[FAQ: "How reliable are these numbers?"​]
List of Recurring Sources
[n.1] "...more barbaric than previous centuries."
One contender for worst century has to be the Seventeenth (the 1600s). The 30 Years War was the bloodiest single conflict in Europe until World War One. Russia began the century in bloody chaos. The Manchu conquest of China was certainly responsible for one the top population collapses in East Asia, while the Mughal invasion of South India caused the highest alledged body count in South Asian history. Meanwhile, the collapse of the Native American population bottomed out, and the Slave Trade was accelerating. All this was clobbering a world with a population only a fifth that of the world in the middle of the Twentieth Century.
The primary cause of this was a quantum leap in military technology. The development of efficient muskets and artillery was allowing entire civilizations to be brought under the command of a single dynasty, creating so-called Gunpowder Empires​. Although in later centuries, these new Empires would be a stabilizing influence, they began by destroying ancient power balances and unleashing chaos.
[The Dictionary of Military History, (1994, André Corvisier, editor) cites a French scholar who estimated that 2% of the non-military European population died of war during the 17th Century. My estimate (on another page) is that 4-5% of all deaths in the 20th Century were caused by war and oppression. I haven't yet figured out whether these two statistics are comparable ("non-military European ... war" vs. "all ... war and oppression".)]
See also Total War Dead Throughout History.
[n.2] FAQ: "How reliable are ancient and medieval atrocity statistics?"
The short answer is, "We don't know."
The longer answer is that these are the numbers we've been given, so we pretty much have to take them or leave them at face value. We can't easily check behind them.
The principle argument against the accuracy of ancient atrocity statistics is that they come from innumerate societies without the modern skill in counting large numbers of people and keeping accurate records. Conquerors liked to brag about their exploits, and the vast hordes of the enemy army grew with each retelling. Civilization before the Enlightenment was rather flexible when it came to historic accuracy, and medieval historians never let the truth get in the way of a good story
Specific numbers from ancient history are often discredited by pointing out that it would have been physically impossible to crowd that many people onto that battlefield, or to fit them inside the walls of this city, or to carry that many arrows, or to slit that many throats in that length of time.
In fact, there are many historians who doubt ancient atrocity statistics as a matter of course, simply because the supporting evidence (if there ever was any) is now lost in the mists of time. Of course, in 300 years, historians will probably be treating the Holocaust the same way.
The principle argument in favor of these statistics is that they were considered credible at the time, and if eyewitnesses believed that it was logistically possible to field an army that huge, well, they would know better than we would, right? Our ancestors knew how to count sheep and cattle, so why would they suddenly turn stupid when it came to counting people. We often accept the word of ancient historians when they list a chronology of events, so why are we more skeptical when they list numbers?
Nor is technology the deciding factor. Even today, most killings are accomplished with traditional low-tech methods (starvation, disease, machetes), so we shouldn't automatically consider high body counts to be beyond the reach of our ancestors. In our lifetimes, we've seen massive genocides commited in Cambodia and Rwanda without any particularly advanced technology.
Many critics assume that modern war is always more destructive simply because the weaponry is more destructive. What everyone forgets, however, is that modern war can also be less destructive by rushing food and medicine into affected areas. A medieval peasant returning to his looted farm after the Mongols had passed through would face winter without any stockpiled food, ruins instead of shelter and rags on his back. A crowded medieval city under siege would be swept by epidemics without any vaccines to stop them. Say what you will about the brutality of the modern would, at least we have the Red Cross.
We should keep in mind that many of the numbers from well-documented modern horrors are too big to be believed, but true nonetheless. The danger in doubting too easily is that we'll approach the subject with a double standard, believing the stories we want to believe, and denying the ones we don't.
[n.3] Native American Population
I get a lot of comments on this, most of them trying to explain away the lack of artifacts.
In any case, it appears that they've conceded my main point -- that there are fewer archaeological relics than an equivalent number of Europeans, Asians or Africans would leave behind -- and are reduced to making excuses.
Let me try again: Everywhere we look in the Old World, from Zimbabwe to Angkor Wat to Shang China to Troy to Vedic India to Stonehenge, we see that populations of a certain density produce detritus such as the foundations of buildings, discarded bones of domestic animals, rusty tools, rusty nails, pottery shards, glass shards, lost coins, abandoned mineshafts, crumbling stone walls, broken bridges, broken piers, broken statues, inscriptions, tombs, shipwrecks and graffiti. We also see that town sites are inhabited for centuries at a time, generating layer after layer of this detritus.
You might want to point out that the Indians didn't even have the technologies listed above, but that's my point. They lacked the technology that other societies needed to maintain high population densities. In fact, the overall scarcity of artifacts across so much of pre-Columbian America is a strong indication that either ...
  1. The native population density was far less than ancient farming communities in comparable climatic zones of the Old World, or
  2. There's a vast cover-up of supporting evidence by chauvanistic Euro-Americans, or
  3. The natives were exceptionally frugal and tidy, or
  4. They used delicate and fragile materials that vanished without a trace.
You may take your pick, but I like Option One because it doesn't require that we invent hypothetical and mysterious technologies, psychologies or conspiracies out of thin air.
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Last updated Jan. 2012
Copyright © 1999-2010 Matthew White