Submitted by Taps Coogan on the 6th of March 2017 to The Sounding Line.
The following chart, from Our World in Data, shows the global death rates that have resulted from all known military conflicts and genocides since the year 1400 AD. Our World in Data notes:
“It would be wrong to believe that the past was peaceful. One reason why some people might have this impression is that many of the past conflicts feature less prominently in our memories, they are simply forgotten.
An overview of all the conflicts that we have historical knowledge and an estimate of the number of fatalities of is shown in the visualization below.
The red circles visualize all conflicts in the Conflict Catalog (here) authored by Peter Brecke. Brecke’s dataset contains information on 3708 conflicts, but in the more distant past it is still incomplete and for many past conflicts Brecke is either lacking an estimate of the number of fatalities or we can suspect that entire conflicts are completely unknown.”
While this sort of data set is inevitably based on estimates, conflicting historical records, and under represents conflicts that occurred in the foggy past, it is nonetheless remarkably comprehensive and interesting trends can be observed.
A few observations:
The military and civilian death rate as a portion of the world’s population at any given the time (the red line) appears surprisingly cyclical going back to at least 1600 AD. The death rate has oscillated in a fairly consistent range from one death per 100,000 people during fleeting periods of peace to about 200 during the worst global conflicts. Starting with the 30-Years War in the early 1600s and running until World War II, global scale conflicts seem to occur regularly every 50 years or so. The devastating 30-Years War (1618 to 1648) was followed 53 years later by the pan European War of Spanish Succession (1701 to 1714). The War of Spanish Succession was followed 42 years later by the also devastating Seven Years War (1756 to 1763). The Seven Years War was followed 40 years later by the Napoleonic Wars (1803 to 1815), arguably the first true ‘world war.’ The Napoleonic Wars were followed roughly 40 years later by the Taiping Rebellion (1850 to 1871), Crimean War (1853 to 1856), and American Civil War (1861-1865). These conflicts were followed 50 years later by the First World War (1914 to 1918). The First World War was followed just 21 years later by the Second World War (1939 to 1945). It has been 73 years since WWII.
While the 73 years since WWII have been far from universally peaceful, it has been the longest stretch in over 400 years of human history without widespread mass casualty warfare. While that 73 years seems long, it doesn’t look to be so long that it clearly establishes that a new trend is in effect. The blue line, which extends the data set until 2013 and the start of the Middle Eastern wars, the Arab ‘Spring,’ and the Syrian Civil War, portends to be a return to the normal cyclical pattern and an escalation of widespread military conflict. One can hope not.
To read about the comparative equipment of the world’s largest militaries click here.
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