Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and
Before the 20th Century
This is an incomplete listing of some very bad
that happened before the 20th Century. I've scoured the history books
collected most of the major atrocities that anyone has bothered to
However, just because an event is missing from these pages doesn't
it wasn't very bloody. There are undoubtedly many other events that
recorded and have now faded into the oblivion of forgotten history.
it difficult to prove whether brutality is waxing or waning in the long
term. Maybe the 20th Century really was more barbaric than
(as some people say), but you'll need more complete statistics to prove
(Possibly) The Twenty (or so) Worst Things
People Have Done to Each Other:
Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History
What other people say:
- "The destruction of the Indians of the
Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the
the world." David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: the Conquest of
the New World (1992) page x
- "The Mohammedan Conquest of India is
probably the bloodiest story in history." Will Durant, The Story of
Civilization: I - Our Oriental Heritage (1935) page 459. (see also
- "Little did we guess that what has been called the century of the
common man would witness as its outstanding feature more common men
other with greater facilities than any other five centuries together in
history of the world." Winston Churchill
Population of the World In Millions
||1991 Information Please Almanac
||Livi-Bacci Concise History of World
||Colin McEvedy Atlas of World Population
||United Nations 1999
(See also http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html
Before the rise of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the rest of the gang,
atrocities were the bywords of barbarism. Now that populations have
bigger and body counts have grown proportionally, they don't seem that
however, this says more about us than it does about them.
- Charlemagne (768-814 CE)
- Gibbon Decline & Fall v5, also Trager, People's
4,500 Saxon hostages beheaded (782 CE)
- Wars of the Carolingian Succession (840-843 CE)
- Gibbon Decline and Fall vol.5, Ch. XLIX: The wars killed 100,000 Franks
- 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."
- Crusades (1095-1291) 3,000,000 [make link]
- Estimated totals:
- Robertson, John M., A Short History of Christianity
- 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
(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:
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,
- 1st Crusade: 300,000 Eur. k at Battle of Nice [Nicea].
- Crusaders vs. Solimon of Roum: 4,000 Christians,
- 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.
Crusaders from 300,000 to 60,000.
- 1147: 2nd Crusades begins with 500,000. "Most" lost
- 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
- 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.
- 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]
- Padua, Tyranny of Ezzelino da Romano
- 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:
5,000 inhabitants of Padua executed. After loosing power, all but 200
Paduan POWs, executed.
- Sicilian Vespers (1282)
- Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 2,000 k. 1st
- Davies: 4,000 Fr. k. in Palermo
- Gibbon D&F6: 8,000 French
- 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.
of ca. 6.3 million]
- Frederic J. Baumgartner, France in the Sixteenth
Population of France 20M in 1340, 10M a century later. [loss of 10
- Henry Heller, Labour, Science and Technology in
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
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
or 6.3M of Pregill's 19M or 6.7M of Baumgartens' 20M to the plague
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.)
- Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages, p.257
Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, i.342): 400,000 Moors killed at the
Rio Salado, 1341
- West Europe (1348)
- Jews killed as scapegoats for Black Death
- Trager, People's Chronology: 2,000 hanged in
- Davies: 2,000 in Strasbourg; as many as 12,000 in Mainz
- Paul Johnson A History of the Jews (1987): 2,000
6,000 in Mainz
- France, Jacquerie Revolt (1358)
- Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 7,000 peasant
massacred in Meaux
- England, Wat Tyler's Rebellion (1381)
- Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 1,500 peasants
- 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
the Messiah in Glory by Elias Boudinot (1815)
- "Dr Moore in his divine dialogues 161, and in his mystery
lib. 2d, ch. 15, 10, says, 'Pope Julius was in seven years the occasion
slaughter of two hundred thousand Christians — the massacre in
off one hundred thousand in three months — P. Peronius avers that
persecution of the Albigenscs and Waldenses one million lost their
from the establishment of the Jesuits till the year 1580, about 30 or
Balduinus says, nine hundred thousand perished — the Duke of
Alva, by the
hangman, put to death thirty-six thousand — Vergerius affirms
Inquisition, in thirty years, destroyed one hundred and fifty thousand
this I may add the Irish rebellion in the last century, in which thirty
were destroyed, as tho Lord Orrery reports in a paper printed in the
kin Charles Sd."
- From Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual (1897)
- 7,000,000 during the Saracen slaughters in Spain.
- 2,000,000 Saxons and Scandinavians lost their lives
introduction of Christianity.
- 1,000,000 in the Holy Wars against the Netherlands,
- 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]
- Levack: 60,000
- Hutton: 40,000
- Barstow: 100,000, "but her reasoning was flawed" (i.e.
- Davies, Norman, Europe A History: 50,000
- Rummel: 100,000
- Bethancourt: The Killings of Witches, lists 628 named
unnamed witches killed as of Dec. 2000, and estimates that between
500,000 people were killed as witches. [http://www.illusions.com/burning/burnwitc.htm?]
- M. D. Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual (1897):
- 5 Jan. 1999 Deutsche Presse-Agentur: review of Wolfgang
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
the common estimate of
- 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
50,000 and 60,000.
- 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
- Clodfelter: 105,000
- Terence Wise, The Wars of the Roses (1983): Tudor
historians exaggerated death toll as propaganda
- 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"
- 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)
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- Lisbon (1506)
- Trager, People's Chronology: 2,000-4,000 converted
Jews k. in riot.
- Tudor England [make
- 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
petty thieves, and rogues" hung under Henry. Traitors and enemies of
state are implicitly excluded from this total. [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1577harrison-england.html#Chapter
- NOTE: Although it's common to accuse Henry of
executions, the description of his victims sometimes drifts from common
criminals to Catholics,
and the venue from nationwide to just
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
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]
- 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]
- Germany, Knights' War, von Sickingen (1519-1523)
- Wm Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire: 250,000
Germans killed or executed
- 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):
- Encyclopedia.com: 100,000 peasants k. [http://www.encyclopedia.com/articlesnew/35982.html]
- Wm Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire: 100,000
- Douglas Miller: Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524-26:
- Ivan the Terrible, Russia, (r.1533-84)
- 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
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
6000, and lasted for seven years. My analysis: If each one killed at
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Alva boasted of 18,600 executions in Neth.
- Sack of Antwerp (1576): 8,000 k
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1910)
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- 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,
- Rummel: 36,000 democides
- Trager, People's Chronology: 50,000
- MEDIAN: 3,000 in Paris; 36,000 nationwide
- Russo-Tatar War (1571) [make link]
- Henri Troyat, Ivan the Terrible (1984) p.144: Half
- 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.
- Spanish Armada (1588) [make
- 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
- 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.”
- 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]
- The Thirty Years War (1618-48) 7,500,000 [make link]
- Population Loss
- R.J. Rummel: 11.5M total deaths in the war (half
- 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
- 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
- "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:
- Corvisier, Dictionary of Military History and the Art
of War, p.469: 600,000 military deaths.
- K. in Battle: 180,000
- Military. Killed and died: 600,000
- Levy, War in the Modern Great Power System:
2,071,000 battle d.
- 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:
- Bishop's Wars: 1,000
- Accidents: ca. 500
- (Thomas Hobbes est. 100,000 d. from fighting
- 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
- Charles Carlton, Going to the Wars (1992)
- Petty's 1672 estimate of dead in Ireland, covering
- 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.
- France, The Fronde (1648-53)
- Clodfelter: >50,000, only a fraction in battle
- 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.
- Clodfelter: 150,000-200,000 Jews k. in pogrom, Ukraine,
- England (17th C)
- LOC [http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01-2.html]:
243 Quakers died in jail of mistreatment, 1652-80
- Russia, (1667-71)
- Razin Rebellion in Volga area: 100,000 serfs d. (Richard
Dunn, The Age
of Religious Wars 1559-1715)
- Franco-Dutch War (1672-78)
- New England, King Philip's War
- 1992 Britannica: 3,000 Indians and 600 settlers.
- Habsburg-Ottoman War (1682-99)
- Clodfelter: 120,000 k.
- Levy: 384,000
- Russia, Peter the Great (Pyotr
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
- War of the League of Augsburg
- (For the 18th Century, see wars18c.htm
- (For the 19th Century, see wars19c.htm)
- (For the 20th Century, see 20c5m.htm, et
Medieval wars as a whole:
Pitirim Sorokin estimated that Europeans lost some 435,000 men on
battlefield between 900 and 1450 CE:
I haven't the foggiest, but here's an interesting essay on the
The Great "War
Figures" Hoax: an investigation in polemomythology
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
highly debatable, and it basically centers on two questions:
- How many people lived in America before the population plummeted?
- How many of the deaths during the plummeting can be blamed on
Pick a number, any number.
Sometimes it seems that this is the way historians decide how many
lived in the Americas before the European Contact. As The New York
Library American History Desk Reference puts it, "Estimates of the
Native American population of the Americas, all completely
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
subsequent decline in detail, two good books to start with are David
Numbers From Nowhere (1998) and Russell Thornton, American
Holocaust and Survival (1987).
Population of the Western Hemisphere in 1492 according to various
The problem, of course, is that by the time that the Europeans got
counting the Indians, there were a lot fewer to count
I've graphed the estimates chronlogically to show that the passage
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
number to which many of the estimates aspire. Native American history
traditionally treated as marginal -- a handful of primitive kingdoms
easily overwhelmed by the most dynamic civilization on Earth -- but if
somehow be proven that the Americas had even more people than Europe,
history would be turned upside down. The European conquest could be
the tail wagging the dog, like the Barbarian invasions of Rome, a small
of savages decending on the civilized world, wiping out or enslaving
the bulk of
The advocates of large numbers, however, are often their own worst
enemies. On page 33 of American Holocaust, David Stannard
about 25,000,000 people, or about seven times the number living in all
England, were residing in and around the great Valley of Mexico at the
Columbus's arrival in the New World".
Now, I've been to England, and I can vouch that the English have
mark on the land. You can't throw a brick in England without hitting
of the earlier inhabitants -- castles, cathedrals, Roman walls and
Stonehenge, etc. -- not to mention books, tools, coins, weapons and all
little pieces of the past that turn up anytime someone plows a field or
Now go back and read what Stannard has written. I'm sure that the
that he's trying to make is that since there were seven times
Mexicans as English, truly the Mexicans were seven times more civilized
English, so if anyone deserved to be called "savages", it's the
English. Unfortunately, the point that nags at me is "If there were
times as many people in Mexico, shouldn't there be seven times as many
Mexico?" Yes, I've read the archaeological reports that discuss
systems, and I've seen the big, colorful picture books showing
ruins of ancient pyramids, but the fact is that seven times the
England should have left behind a lot more stuff than
I find the estimates for Virginia even more awkward because I live
here. Stannard estimates the population of Powhatan's Confederation at
there's not a single site in the Virginia Tidewater that remotely hints
complex infrastructure necessary to support even half this number.
one ruin of any permanent building. Artifacts of any kind are rare --
even a single burial mound worth pilfering. And it's not like there's
forgotten ghost town deep in the desert or jungle waiting to be
is Virginia. It's been settled, plowed and excavated for 400 years.
I also find it difficult to believe that the Europeans obliterated
traces of the earlier inhabitants. After all, I've been to Germany too.
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
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
And then, within a century of the European Contact, the hemispheric
population plunged to a fairly well-proven residue of less than 10
many of these deaths count as indictable atrocities?
The Death Toll:
In American Holocaust, Stannard estimates the total cost of
near-extermination of the American Indians as 100,000,000.
The problem here (aside from the question of whether there were even
many people in hemisphere at all) is that Stannard doesn't
death by massacre and death by disease. He blames the Europeans for
new diseases which spread like wildfire -- often faster than than the
themselves -- and depopulated the continent. Since no one disputes the
that most of the native deaths were caused by alien diseases to which
never developed immunity, the simple question of categorization is
Traditionally we add death by disease and famine into the total cost
and massacres (Anne Frank, after all, died of typhus, not Zyklon-B, but
still a victim of the Holocaust) so I don't see any problem with doing
with the American genocides, provided that the deaths occurred after
society had already been disrupted by direct European hostility. If a
enslaved or driven off its lands, the associated increase in deaths by
would definitely count toward the atrocity (The chain of events which
the Indian population of California from 85,000 in 1852 to 18,000 in
certainly counts regardless of the exact agent of death, because by
the Indians were being hunted down from one end of California to
however, if a tribe was merely sneezed on by the wrong person at first
it should not count.
Consider the Powhatans of Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, Stannard
estimates that the population was 100,000 before contact. In the same
paragraph, he states that European depredations and disease had reduced
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
but he doesn't actually list any. As far as I can tell, the handful of
ventures into the Chesapeake region before 1607 were too small to do
depredating, and in what conflicts there were, the Europeans often got
of it. [see http://www.mariner.org/baylink/span.html
Think of it this way: if the Europeans had arrived with the most
intentions and behaved like perfect guests, or for that matter, if
had been the ones to discover Europe instead of vice versa, then the
would still have been exposed to unfamiliar diseases and the
population would still have been scythed by massive
we'd just lump it into the same category as the Black Death, i.e. bad
(Curiously, the Black Death was brought to Europe by the Mongols.
blame them for it? And while we're tossing blame around willy-nilly,
Native Americans responsible for introducing tobacco to the world --
and for the
90 million deaths which followed?)
- M. D. Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual (1897):
Mexicans and Peruvians were slaughtered.
- David Barrett, World Christian Trends: Conquistadors
- Coe, Snow and Benson, Atlas of Ancient America (1986)
- Total pre-Columbian population: 40M
- Mexico: Original population of 11M to 25M ("lower figure
support") fell to 1.25M (1625)
- Peru: Pop. fell from 9M (1533) to >500,000 (early 17th C)
- Brazil: Original population of 2.5M to 5.0M ("recent
favoring the higher") fell to 1M
- Massimo Livi-Bacci, Concise History of World Population
- Mexico: Population fell from 6.3M (1548) to 1.9M (1580) to 1M
- Peru: Pop. fell from 1.3M (1572) to 600,000 (1620)
- Canada: from 300,000 (ca. 1600) to < 100,000 (ca. 1800)
- USA: from 5M (1500) to 60,000 (ca. 1800) [sic. Probably means
because he cites Thornton]
- R.J. Rummel estimates that 13,778,000 American Indians died of
the 16th through 19th Centuries:
- Total dead among native Americans in colonial era: 49.5M out
pre-contact population of 55M
- Democides among Indians, post-colonial era: 8,763,000
- Democides in US: 15,000
- Skidmore & Smith, Modern Latin America (1997)
- Mexico: Population fell from 25M (1519) to 16.8M (1523) to
1.9M (1580) to
- Peru: from 1.3M (1570, forty years after Conquest) to
- Stannard, American Holocaust (1992): 100,000,000 deaths
hemisphere across time
- 16th Century death toll: between 60M and 80M
- Panama, 1514-1530: 2M Indians killed
- Central: Population fell from 25.0M (1519) to 1.3M
- SE: fell from 1,700,000 to 240,000
- North: fell from 2,500,000 to 320,000
- Peru, 16th C.: between 8.5M and 13.5M people destroyed.
- Fredric Wertham, A Sign For Cain : An Exploration of Human
(1966): South American death toll of 15,000,000.
I can't confidently estimate the number of unnatural deaths (i.e.
killings, as a result of violence and oppression, both direct [war,
execution] and indirect [famine, avoidable disease]) among Amerindians
the centuries, but as a guess, I'd say 20 million, for no reasons other
it's half of the original 40M, and it seems to be near the median of
previous estimates. (Rummel, Barrett, Althea, Stannard)
Not the most solid grounds, I'll grant you.
- Hispanola (1492-1550) [make link]
- General native population decline
- Trager, People's Chronology: from 200-300,000
(1492) to 60,000 (1508) to 14,000 (1514) to <500 (1548)
- Wertham: plummmet from 1,000,000 to 14,000.
- Stannard: from 8M (1492) to 4M or 5M (1496) to less
than 100,000 (1508) to less than 20,000 (1518) to extinction (1535)
- Jan Rogozinski, A Brief History of the Caribbean
(1994): Assessments of the number of Indians throughout the Caribbean
in 1492 range from
225,000 to 6M, half in Hispaniola. All gone within a few decades.
- Aztecs (1375-1419) [make
- Estimated Total of human sacrifices among Aztecs:
- Michael Harner (1977): "In 1946 Sherburne Cook, a
demographer specializing in American Indian populations, estimated an
over-all annual mean of 15,000 victims in a central Mexican population
reckoned at two million [i.e. 1.5M sacrificed per century]. Later,
however, he and his colleague Woodrow Borah revised his estimate of the
total central Mexican population upward to 25 million. Recently, Borah,
possibly the leading authority on the demography of Mexico at the time
of the conquest, has also revised the estimated number of persons
sacrificed in central Mexico in the fifteenth century to 250,000 per
year" [i.e. 25.0M per century] [http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/aztecs/sacrifice.htm]
- William Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico
(1843): "Scarcely any author pretends to estimate the yearly sacrifices
throughout the empire at less than twenty thousand, and some carry the
number as high as fifty!" [i.e. 2-5M per century] [http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PreConq.html]
- Wikipedia, as usual, takes the extreme viewpoint that
there was hardly any sacrifice at all, maybe 300 to 600 annually, or
30,000-60,000 per century. [
- Dedication of a temple of Huitzilopochtli in Tenochtitlan by
Aztec king Ahuitzotl (1487)
- Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: 80,000
- Mark Cocker, Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold
- Harris, Cannibals and Kings (1977): 14,100 est.
by Sherburne Cook
- Skull rack in Xocotlan: >100,000 skulls (Marvin Harris, Cannibals
and Kings, citing Spanish eyewitness Bernal Diaz)
- Skull rack in Tenochtitlan held 136,000 skulls according to
Spanish eyewitness Andres de Tapia
- Harris, Cannibals and Kings, considers that this
"could be dismissed as exaggerations were it not for ... methodically
racked and hence easily counted rows"
- Cocker, Rivers of Blood..., considers this an
exageration: "double the true figure"
- Spanish Conquest of Tenochtitlan (1520): 100,000-200,000
Aztecs killed in battle. (Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History)
- The Jivaro of EC & PE killed 25,000 Spaniards in 1599
(Cecil Adams [http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a980731.html])
- see also 19th C. USA and
20th C. Brazil
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]
- Dan Usher says the population declined from 58 million in 2
C.E. to 15.1 million in 31 C.E., for a loss of 43 million.
(Political Economy (Blackwell, 2003) p.12)
- J. D. Durand estimates that the population of China Proper
dropped from 71 million to 43 million between 2 C.E. and 88 C.E., a
loss of 28 million. (“The population statistics
of China, AD 2 – 1953,” Population Studies
(1960), Vol. 13, No. 3, p.221)
- P M G Harris estimates a population of 41 million in 23 C.E.,
which suggests a decline of 16 million since 2 C.E. (The
History of Human Populations: Volume I Forms of Growth and Decline,
- MEDIAN POPULATION LOSS: 10-16 million [ca. 13m ]
- William Leonard says that the population declined from just
under 60 million 1 C.E. to just under 50 million in 140 C.E., a decline
of approximately 10 million (The Encyclopedia of
World History, p 51)
- Rafe de Crespigny: In 2 C.E. the population of the whole empire
was over 57 million. In the 140s there were 48 million. This
comes to a decline of 9 million. (“South China
under the Later Han Dynasty,”
- The Cambridge History of China (vol. 1, p.240)
suggests a population decline of 8 or 9 million
between 2 C.E. and 140 C.E.
An Lushan Revolt (756-763
CE) 13,000,000 [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]
China, fall of the Yuan Dynasty (ca.
1368) [make link]
- At the peak of the medieval Tang dynasty, the census taken in
the year 753 recorded a population of 52,880,488. After eleven years of
civil war, the census of 764 gave a figure of 16,900,000. The census
figures are referenced in the following places:
- Beck [http://www.san.beck.org/AB3-China.html]:
census counts 16,900,000 in 764 CE, compared to 52,880,488 ten years
earlier. [loss of ca. 36M]
- Durand, JD, “The population statistics of China, AD
2 – 1953,” Population Studies (1960), Vol. 13,
No. 3, p.209,223 ("Many historians have affirmed that 36 million lives
were lost as a result of the violent event, but Fitzgerald and others
have shown that this is incredible. Even if such a huge loss were
conceivable, it would be naive to suppose that an accurate count could
be carried out in the midst of the ensuing chaos.")
- Fitzgerald, 1973, p.312-315 ("The real cause of the
decline in the figures for the censuses after the rebellion was the
dispersion of the officials who had been in charge of the revenue
- Hooker, Richard, World Civilizations,
Washington State University, 1996, [http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/TEXT/chememp.rtf]
("...before the rebellion, China had a population of over 53 million
people; after the rebellion, the population had plummeted to seventeen
- Komorova, Natalia and Andrey Korotayev, "A Model of
Pre-Industrial Demographic Cycle" [http://orion.oac.uci.edu/~dbell/SecularCycles.pdf]
("The actual population decline might have been even less than was
estimated by Zhao and Xie, as the underregistration in the post-An
Lushan T'ang Empire was especially heavy..." but on their graph of
Chinese population, the line plummets from 53 to 17 million without any
adjustment for an undercount.)
- Nicoll, Leo A., "World Civilization I Course Notes",
Loyola University [http://www.loyno.edu/~nicoll/WorldCivFall/07china.htm]
("Population dropped from 53 million to 17 million.")
- Pitirim Sorokin, The Sociology of Revolution
(1967): Population declined from 53M to 20M [loss of 33M]
- Stearns, Peter N., ed., The Encyclopedia of World
History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 6th ed., Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 2001. [http://www.bartleby.com/67/370.html]
("In population, the census of 753 (on the eve of the Rebellion of An
Lu-shan) recorded a figure of 52,880,488. Eleven years later, the
census of 764 (after the rebellion) gave a figure of 16,900,000.
Although this figure is certainly too low, it does indicate a clear
decline in population.")
- René Grousset, The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire (1970) p.171: "On the eve of the civil war, after a
period of a hundred and forty years of internal peace, the census of 754
showed a number of families the equivalent of fifty-two million
inhabitants. In 839, after the restored dynasty had already had
three-quarters of a century to efface the scars of civil war, the census
showed a population of no more than thirty million."[a long term loss of 22 million]
- Matthew White, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (W. W. Norton, 2012)
- I'll be the first to admit that the An Lushan Rebellion is problematic.
Here was a civil war in China that everybody agrees was
remarkably destructive. The numbers commonly cited are not
wild-eyed legends passed down by frightened peasants and picked up by
gullible storytellers, but rather official census records that showed a
loss of 36 million people. Most scholars doubt the pinpoint accuracy of
the census, but many books still give a death toll of 36 million with
As far as I could tell, there were only 3 ways to handle the An Lushan
- Use the census figures as given and report an absolute population loss of 36 million.
- Arbitrarily report a lower number based on nothing.
- Ignore the rebellion.
Unfortunately each of
those is dishonest in its own way.
- Using the numbers would ignore the fact that most scholars
believe the numbers to be wrong.
- Making up new numbers would be pretending that I
know something that no one else does.
- Ignoring it would imply that it never happened.
- Fortunately, the count of households presents slightly different
numbers. In the seven counts before An Lushan’s Revolt, the
census repeatedly found between 8 and 9 million households, and then,
in the seven counts following the rebellion, the census consistently
found no more than 4 million. Even a century after the revolt, in
845, the Chinese civil service could find only 4,955,151 taxpaying
households, a long drop from the 9,069,154 households recorded in 755. This indicates that the actual population collapse
may have been closer to one-half, or 26 million. For the sake of ranking, however, I’m
being conservative and cutting this in half, counting only 13 million dead in the An Lushan
China, fall of the Ming Dynasty
(1618-44) [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]
- Ming/Qing Transition
- Colin McEvedy, Atlas of World Population History
(1978): Manchu conquest cost China 25M people, or one sixth of the
- Alan McFarlane, The Savage Wars of Peace: England,
Japan and the Malthusian Trap (2003): 25M or 17% of the pop.
- Zhang Xianzhong (Wade: Chang Hsien-chung. Nickname: Yellow
Tiger) Rebel leader (fl.1628-47)
- Britannica: "The officially published Ming History
reports that 600,000,000 persons were put to death under his rule.
Obviously a gross exaggeration, the figure is nevertheless indicative
of the great suffering under his rule."
Miscellaneous Oriental Atrocities
Here are just a few of the estimates that are kicking around:
- China, Shang Dynasty (ca. 1750-1050
BCE) [make link]
- July 2003 Nat. Geographic: 13,000 human sacrifices in
years of rule (ca. 1300-1050 BCE)
- 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
- 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
- India, Ashoka's Conquest of Kalinga
- 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)
- 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)
- 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
- China, something? (600s CE):
- Komarova and Korotayev, "A Model of Pre-Industrial
46M counted in census of 606; 12M counted in census of 627.
- Korea, Chinese Invasion (612 CE) [make link]
- Trager, People's Chronology: 300,000 Chinese invade
and only 2,700
- Arab Outbreak, et seq. (7th Century
beyond) [make link]
- Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, v.5:
- 661 CE - Disputed succession to Caliphate: Ali lost
(Muawiya) lost 45,000
- Conquest of Yemen: 1200 Moslems k. in 1st assault; 10,000
Infidels k. in
- Battle of Cadesia: 7,500 Saracens
- 635 CE - Battle conquering Syria: 470 Arabs + 50,000
- 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
- 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
- 1076 CE - Atsiz the Carizmian conquers Jerusalem: 3,000
- [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
- Morocco (1035 CE):
- Some guy on Internet: 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez [http://www.bh.org.il/Communities/Archive/Fez.asp]
- 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
- 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
- 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
- David Morgan, The Mongols,
- 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
- 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
- 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
- "[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
- Maru: 1,300,000
- Herat: 1,600,000
- Neisabour [Nishapur]: 1,747,000
- Zingis: 160,000 Carizmians [Khwarizmi]
- Baghdad: pyramid of 90,000 skulls
- 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?"]
- India, Muhammad Shah, Sultan of
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
- Lonely Planet India, by Sarina Singh: "The Muslim
historian Firishtah estimates that half a million 'infidels' were
killed in the ensuing campaign."
- Timur Lenk (1369-1405) [make link]
- 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:
Rewriting Hebrew History, p.385 (1974): "Genghis Khan is estimated
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):
prisoners massacred at Delhi
- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage: 100,000
- 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.
in Turkey, where he promised no bloodshed in return for surrender, he
prisoners buried alive and pointed out that he had kept to the letter
- 9 Aug. 2004 Evening Standard (London) review of
- 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
- Ottoman Empire (16th Century) [make link]
- Civil War (1509-13)
- Selim the Grim massacres 40,000 Anatolian Shi'ites
- 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.
- Campaign around Belgrade (1456): Chronicles of Enguerrand de
Enguerrand de Monstrelet, p.240: 200,000 Turks slain in campaign.
- 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
- 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]:
- 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."
- "The Bahmani sultans of Gulbarga and Bidar considered it
meritorious to kill a hundred thousand Hindu men, women, and children
- "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
- Koenraad Elst http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/irin/genocide.htmlhttp://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1999/3/1999-3-14.shtmlhttp://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
- "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."
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Mughal India (1568)
- Akbar kills 30,000 defenders on the day Chitor fell. (Dirk H.
Naukar, Rajput, and Sepoy : The Ethnohistory of the Military
of Hindustan, 1450-1850)
- 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
- 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
- Ottoman Empire (17th Century) [make link]
- Mutiny (1631)
- 20,000 mutineers k. (Jason Goodwin, Lords of the
- 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
- Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History:
50,000 people k., mostly rebels
- Japan, Shimabara Rebellion (1638)
- Flexner, Pessimist's Guide to History: All but 100 of
the 20,000 rebels killed. Their opponents (the nobility) lost 10,000 in
- 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
- 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]
- 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
- 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?"]
[n.1] "...more barbaric than previous
One contender for worst century has to be the Seventeenth (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
the Mughal invasion of South India caused the highest alledged body
South Asian history. Meanwhile, the collapse of the Native American
bottomed out, and the Slave Trade was accelerating. All this was
world with a population only a fifth that of the world in the middle of
The primary cause of this was a quantum leap in military technology.
development of efficient muskets and artillery was allowing entire
to be brought under the command of a single dynasty, creating so-called
in later centuries, these new Empires would be a stabilizing influence,
began by destroying ancient power balances and unleashing chaos.
[The Dictionary of Military History, (1994, André
editor) cites a French scholar who estimated that 2% of the
European population died of war during the 17th Century. My estimate (on another page) is that 4-5% of all
the 20th Century were caused by war and oppression. I haven't yet
whether these two statistics are comparable ("non-military European ...
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
pretty much have to take them or leave them at face value. We can't
check behind them.
The principle argument against the accuracy of ancient atrocity
is that they come from innumerate societies without the modern skill in
large numbers of people and keeping accurate records. Conquerors liked
about their exploits, and the vast hordes of the enemy army grew with
retelling. Civilization before the Enlightenment was rather flexible
came to historic accuracy, and medieval historians never let the truth
the way of a good story
Specific numbers from ancient history are often discredited by
that it would have been physically impossible to crowd that many people
that battlefield, or to fit them inside the walls of this city, or to
many arrows, or to slit that many throats in that length of time.
In fact, there are many historians who doubt ancient atrocity
a matter of course, simply because the supporting evidence (if there
any) is now lost in the mists of time. Of course, in 300 years,
probably be treating the Holocaust the same way.
The principle argument in favor of these statistics is that they
considered credible at the time, and if eyewitnesses believed that it
logistically possible to field an army that huge, well, they would know
than we would, right? Our ancestors knew how to count sheep and cattle,
would they suddenly turn stupid when it came to counting people. We
accept the word of ancient historians when they list a chronology of
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,
so we shouldn't automatically consider high body counts to be beyond
of our ancestors. In our lifetimes, we've seen massive genocides
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
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
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
lack of artifacts.
- "The Indians of Virginia built with wood, which doesn't survive
centuries in Virginia." [Yes it does. Visit Williamsburg.]
- "It took 300 years to rediscover the original site of Jamestown,
archaeologists could easily miss the sites of old Indian towns."
was just one lost settlement -- a needle in a haystack. I'm asking how
could fail to find any major habitation anywhere in the state.]
- "No one has bothered looking for Indian archaeological sites."
[There are dozens of university history departments in the state just
get some hands-on experience.]
- "The Indians were not as ostentatious and possessive as the
so they wouldn't produced big, flashy buildings." [So Indians aren't
subject to human nature?]
- "If you want to properly excavate Cahokia, you'll have to move
Louis." [That hasn't stopped excavation in Mexico City. Are there no
vacant lots and construction sites that archaeologists can sift
In any case, it appears that they've conceded my main point -- that
are fewer archaeological relics than an equivalent number of Europeans,
or Africans would leave behind -- and are reduced to making excuses.
Let me try again: Everywhere we look in the Old World, from Zimbabwe
Angkor Wat to Shang China to Troy to Vedic India to Stonehenge, we see
populations of a certain density produce detritus such as the
buildings, discarded bones of domestic animals, rusty tools, rusty
pottery shards, glass shards, lost coins, abandoned mineshafts,
walls, broken bridges, broken piers, broken statues, inscriptions,
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
technologies listed above, but that's my point. They lacked the
other societies needed to maintain high population densities. In
the overall scarcity of artifacts across so much of pre-Columbian
America is a
strong indication that either ...
- The native population density was far less than ancient farming
communities in comparable climatic zones of the Old World, or
- There's a vast cover-up of supporting evidence by chauvanistic
- The natives were exceptionally frugal and tidy, or
- They used delicate and fragile materials that vanished without a
You may take your pick, but I like Option One because it doesn't
that we invent hypothetical and mysterious technologies, psychologies
conspiracies out of thin air.
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Last updated Jan. 2012
Copyright © 1999-2010 Matthew White