Deaths by Mass Unpleasantness:
Estimated Totals for the Entire 20th Century
How many people died in all the wars, massacres, slaughters and oppressions
of the Twentieth Century? Here are a few atrocitologists who have made
- M. Cherif Bassouni, "Searching for peace and achieving justice: the need for accountability", published on Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 59: no. 4. [http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?59+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs.+9+(Fall+1996)] (Citing Rummel and SIPRI)
- 33 million "military casualties" (That's how the article phrased
it, but I presume that means military deaths.)
- 170 million killed in "conflicts of a non-international charater,
internal conflicts and tyrannical regime victimization")
- incl. 86M since the Second World War
- [TOTAL: 203,000,000]
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve
of the Twenty-first Century (1993)
- "Lives deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage":
- 167,000,000 to 175,000,000
- War Dead: 87,500,000
- Military war dead:
- Civilian war dead:
- Not-war Dead: 80,000,000
- David Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia (2001)
- Stephane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism
- Victims of Communism only: 85-100M
- Milton Leitenberg [http://www.pcr.uu.se/Leitenberg_paper.pdf]
- Politically caused deaths in the 20th C: 214M to 226M, incl...
- Deaths in wars and conflicts, incl. civilian: 130M-142M
- Political deaths, 1945-2000: 50M-51M
- Not The Enemy Media [http://nottheenemy.com/index_files/Death%20Counts/Death%20Counts.htm]
- Killed through U.S. foreign policy since WWII, as of July 2003: 10,778,727 to 16,861,695
- Rudolph J. Rummel, Death By Government
- "Democides" - Government inflicted deaths (1900-87)
- Communist Oppression: 110,286,000
- Democratic democides: 2,028,000
- Not included among democides:
- Wars: 34,021,000
- Non-Democidal Famine (often including famines associated with war and
- China (1900-87): 49,275,000
- Russia: (1921-47): 5,833,000
- 258,327,000 for all the categories listed here.
- Me (Matthew White, Historical Atlas of
the Twentieth Century, 2010):
- Deaths by War and Oppression during the 20th Century: 203 million
- * Collateral = civilian deaths that are generally considered to be an unavoidable, legitimate byproduct of waging war.
- FAQ: How did you get these totals?
- My estimate for the Communist share of the century's unpleasantness:
- Genocide & Tyranny: 29M
- (incl. intentional famine)
- Man-made Famine: 41M
- (excl. intentional famine, but including both wartime and peacetime)
- Communist-inspired War (for example the Russian Civil War, Vietnam, Korea,
- Military: 7m
- Civilian (collateral): 10m
- NOTE: With these numbers, I'm tallying every combat death and
accidental civilian death in the war, without differentiating who died, who did
it or who started it. According to whichever theory of Just War you are working
from, the Communists may be entirely blameless, or entirely to blame, for these
- TOTAL: 87M deaths by Communism.
- RESIDUE: 116M deaths by non-Communism.
- Total Deaths During the 20th Century
- Carl Haub, "How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?" (Population Today, November/December 2002) [http://www.prb.org/articles/2002/howmanypeoplehaveeverlivedonearth.aspx]
- From Haub's chart, it looks like there were 9,801,490,715 births
between 1900 and 2002. Added to the 1,656,000,000 alive in 1900, it
seems that 11,457,490,715 people lived during the 20th Century. With
only ca. 6 billion still alive in 2000, the century probably saw about
5.5 billion deaths.
- That means that the 203 million multicides I've counted in the
20th Century would account for 3.7% of all deaths, or 1 out of every 27.
- Smallpox in the 20thC:
- Mannfred Hollinger, Introduction to Pharmacology: Half a billion
people worldwide in the 20th C.
- John Campbell, Campbell's Physiology Notes for Nurses: smallpox
killed 300 million in the 20th Century.
- Michael Oldstone, Viruses, Plagues, and History: 300M
- Albert Marrin, Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster: 300M
- R. Peto, "Mortality from tobacco in developed countries: indirect
estimation from national vital statistics", Lancet, 23 May 1992:
- 1930-59: 11,000,000
- 1960s: 9,000,000
- 1970s: 13,000,000
- 1980s: 17,000,000
- 1990s: 21,000,000
- TOTAL (1930-1999): 71,000,000 tobacco-related deaths in developed
countries. (US, Europe, USSR, Canada, Japan, Australia, NZ)
- Note: Although the bulk of humanity lives outside developed
countries, tobacco-related deaths are not as common there, largely because the
average Third World life expectancy does not leave enough time to develop cancer
and heart disease. Ditto for the developed world prior to 1930. Basically,
smoking is a rich man's way to die.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million people die each year
worldwide from tobacco, which becomes 900,000 3rd-Worlders when we subtract the
2.1 million 1st- and 2nd-Worlders calculated by Peto (yearly average for the
1990s, above). This indicates some 9 million tobacco deaths in non-developed
countries during the 1990s and (using the same ratio) perhaps 5 million during
the 1980s. If we continue this ratio all the way back, we get an even hundred
million deaths by tobacco worldwide; however, as Peto puts it, "the
epidemic is generally at an earlier stage," so the tobacco-related
mortality rate in the third world was relatively low before 1980. Let's add
only another 5 million for the years prior to 1980, bringing the century total
up to 90,000,000.
- Cats and Dogs
- AHS: 9.6 million animals euthanized in the US, 1997 [http://www.americanhumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nr_fact_sheets_animal_euthanasia]
- HSUS: 3-4 million cats and dogs euthanized by US shelters each year [http://www.hsus.org/pets/issues_affecting_our_pets/pet_overpopulation_and_ownership_statistics/hsus_pet_overpopulation_estimates.html]
- Influenza Pandemic, 1918-19:
- Gilbert: 13,000,000
- Encarta: 20,000,000 (also Time: Great Events of the 20th
Century; also 30 June 1998 Washington Post)
- Michael Howard, The Oxford History of the Twentieth Century: 20M d.
in 1919 flu.
- Our Times: 21,642,274
- MEDIAN: ca. 21M
- Wallechinsky: 30,000,000
- R.S. Bray, Armies of Pestilence: the Impace of Disease on History
(1996): 25-50M, citing Burnet & White
- John M. Barry, The Great Influenza (2004)
- 1927 AMA study: 21M
- 1940s McFarlane Burnet est. 50-100M
- 2002 epidem. study: 50-100M
- Spartacus [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWinfluenzia.htm]:
- NOTE: Because the first outbreaks of the disease were often spread via
troop movements, the temptation is to add all the world's pandemic
deaths to the death toll of World War I, thereby
raising it from ca. 15M to more than 35M; however, I have never seen an
actual, published history of the First World War do this. Yes, histories of the
war will count the soldiers and refugees that died of the flu in camps, but
obviously not the millions in, say, China or India, that died far from any
battlefield, long after the armistice.
- 11,700,000 deaths worldwide, 1981-98 (from 23 June 1998 report by the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS at http://www.unaids.org/highband/document/epidemio/june98/index.html)
- Very, very rough estimate until I research this more fully: 8.5
million murders worldwide, 1900-1999.
- What I do know so far:
- Brazil: 350,000 murders in 1990s (24 Oct. 1999 Guardian)
- USA 1960-96: 666,160 murders and (non-negligent) manslaughters (Statistical
Abstract of the United States, http://www.census.gov/statab/freq/98s0335.txt)
- USA 1900-59: 390,136 murders (Watenburg, The Statistical History of
the United States, 1976)
- USA TOTAL: 1,056,296 (more or less -- depending on how you want to count
- 739,938 murders worldwide, 1986-90, excluding the USA (http://www.ifs.univie.ac.at/uncjin/mosaic/ccrimes/tothom.txt).
The USA produced 12.5% of the world's murders during the years 1986-90, so if
we apply that ratio to the entire century, then it would indicate that 7.35M
murders were committed worldwide (but outside the US), 1900-96. It looks like
the century total is somewhere near 1.05M in US + 7.35M elsewhere.
- Maybe this 8.5?M should be added to the wars and oppressions under the
category of deaths "caused by fellow humans", above. If you want to
do this, go ahead.
- Natural Disasters:
- According to a 20 December 1999 press release from the reinsurance company
Munich Re, a total of 3.5 million people were killed in 20th Century disasters
such as floods, earthquakes, and volcanos, but not drought or famine. (A total
of 15M were killed by disasters during the entire Second Millennium.) [http://www.munichre.com]
- Just out of curiosity, I decided to calculate the death toll of racism in
the United States, and it certainly looks like non-whites suffered 3,300,000
excess deaths from 1900 to 1970.
- Sources: Throughout most of American history, non-whites have had a
significantly higher death rate than whites. As there's no natural reason for
whites to live longer than non-whites, the cause for this difference must be
social -- rooted in poverty and manifesting itself in malnutrition, inadequate
public health, substandard medical care, homicide, alcoholism, suicide and drug
- If we subtract the number of non-whites who would have died anyway (even at
a white death rate) from the number who did die -- year-by-year -- and
then add it all up, we get our total number of excess deaths.
- Because this is just my calculations -- not peer-reviewed or gathered from
a reputable source -- I'll give you a lot of detail. My source for the raw
numbers is Watenburg, The Statistical History of the United States
(1976). As an example of my methods, consider this: in 1920, the death rate for
whites was 12.6/1000, while for non-whites it was 17.7/1000. Now, if we
multiply the non-white death rate by the estimated non-white population of
10,951,000, we find that there were approximately 193,833 deaths among
non-whites in 1920. If they had died at the white death rate, however, there
would only have been 137,983 deaths. Therefore, we've got 55,850 excess deaths
caused by the socioeconomic handicap of not being white.
- Decade by decade, here are the totals:
- Escape Hatch: Since no one's paying me to be mired in controversy, I'll
give a short list of why this calculation might not mean what it seems to mean.
I'll leave it to philosophers and statisticians to iron out these problems:
- I haven't adjusted for age differences.
- I haven't adjusted for geographic differences -- specifically, I haven't
taken into account that the South has traditionally been unhealthier than the
North for both blacks and whites. Since the black population has been
disproportionately Southern, then this has boosted their death rates.
- Suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. are often considered to be
matters of free will.
- Homicides are customarily blamed on the individual murderers rather than
society as a whole.
- To give you a chance to check behind me, here are
all the calculations in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, compressed with PKZip.
- Jerry Hough, LA Times 18 August 1998 Op-Ed: With the collapse of
communism in Russia, poverty and death rates soared, and some 3 million people
in Russia died who would have been alive if the old life expectancy rates had
been maintained. [http://www.brook.edu/views/op-ed/hough/19980818.htm]
- The Times (London) 27 Jan. 2000: The Russian population is roughly
six million lower than if birth and death rates had stayed constant since the
fall of communism.
- 28 Dec. 1994 Plain Dealer: 360,000 more Russians died in 1993 than
- Medical Mistakes:
- According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, 44,000 to 98,000
Americans die unnecessarily every year from medical mistakes made by health care
professionals. (30 Nov. 1999 Washington Post, 30 Nov. 1999 AP,
or pretty much any news source that day.)
- Eaten by Tigers:
- According to official statistics [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/statistics/],
34,075 people were killed by tigers in British-administered India, 1875-1912.
That includes 11,423 k. 1900-1912.
List of Recurring Sources
How did you get these totals?
Simple -- I added everything up. If you sum the first five of the century's
top 30 atrocities, you get a bit over 142M. Summing
the first 10 brings the total to 157M, while the sum of the first 20 is 171.7M.
It may look like, at this rate, we'll shoot past 188M in no time at all, but
notice how the body counts get smaller at each level -- from 142M for the 1st 5
to 15M for the next 5 to a mere 14M or so for the next 10. Pretty soon, we get
to the point where a single atrocity doesn't noticably shift the total at all.
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Last updated September 2010
Copyright © 1999-2010 Matthew White