20th century - the most violent of all??


Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
Sacramento, CA
I would tend to disagree with the notion that the 20th Century was the most violent, particularly if you are talking peace time. If you are only talking war-related body counts, then the 20th Century wins hand-down (probably the period of 1939 to 1945 wins all by itself).

In peace time, however, the 20th Century was a comparatively civilized and refined time in our species' history. In so many preceding eras - across different cultures - violence, slavery, ethnic subjugation, religious persecution, banditry, piracy, territorial conflicts, caste systems, and "frontier justice" made those times and places much more lawless and violent compared to the levels of civilization, law enforcement, and security enjoyed by many people in much of the 20th Century.

Of course, there were exceptions even to this general statement, but I believe that one was much more likely to be the victim of violence for simply being of a particular race, religion, ethnicity, or social status in eras preceding the 20th Century.
Apr 2008
The 20th Century was undeniably the worst in terms of loss of life and warfare. Perceptions and acceptance of violence, however, change over time, so it's hard to quantify how 'violent' the last hundred years were compared to other periods.
Oct 2007
Southern Vermont
By the number of instances of violence, the twentieth century is probably more peaceful than most. However, the scale of killing and persecution become greater.
Feb 2008
It’s difficult to measure war and peace in relative teerms. There has been a war going on somewhere in the world since the dawn of history. One would be hard pressed to find a month in history when there was not some record of some group fighting another.

So how could you measure one century with another? If you don’t count casualties, either in toto or as a percentage of the population, then for much the same reason you couldn’t count combatants. I doubt that there is any fair measure to say one period was more or less violent than another.

One thing is clear. Since the inception of the modern nation-states in the 19th century and the industrial revolution, people can now kill one another with an efficiency and expediency unknown to any other age.

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
Damned England
What is a defining feature of modern (i.e.) conflict, be it international or civil, is the extent to which whole swathes of people can be classed as undesirable and therefore an enemy, and whole nations can be mobilised for what we'd call "Total War". It is plain that such mass mobilisation can occur in peacetime, too: and "violence" these days can take many forms: economic, (e.g. Third World debt- primarily a 20th century invention), political (e.g. sanctions etc) and even business (e.g. the arms trade), not to mention cultural- a major aspect of American "imperialism". Now, it's possible to decimate whole populations with nothing more than a fountain pen. That much of this violence is expressed in other terms, and that much of it is sanitised doesn't make it any the less violent for those on the receiving end. Yes, the past was violent, but much of it was personal violence- family feuds, duels, in-fighting. The present situation in Burma perhaps is a good example: the authorities there, afraid of outside interference (with good reason), are doing violence to their own people in massive numbers by refusing aid workers into the country. The sanctions against South Africa, supposedly to make the Apartheid system go away, did far less damage to the whites running the show than it did to the poor masses- most of whom where black. Supposedly the ones we were helping. The current "turn food into bio-fuel" story is another example of the impersonal violence commited these days: wheat is turned into fuel so that westerners can still drive 7 litre cars, whilst others are priced out of the food market.

The worst kind of violence, in my opinion, because it's done under the guise of "market forces". And it is difficult to fight back against.

Good question!
May 2008
The 2 biggest wars and most violent and costly of lives and resources and money.

The biggest genocide of all time.

And when people say one of the most peaceful they forget that adds more to the "most violent" argument because peace was a counter-movement to violence.