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Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History Paperback – May 13, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0393345230 ISBN-10: 0393345238 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393345238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393345230
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Genius.” (NPR)

“[White] doesn’t take sides so much as report the facts—and the death tolls. . . . Full of fascinating information about parts of the world little-known to most Westerners.” (Washington Post)

“White . . . gives voice to the suffering of ordinary people that, inexorably, has defined every historical epoch.” (Military Review)

“A fascinating read thanks to White’s keen grasp of history and his wry take on the villains of the past.” (Christian Science Monitor)

About the Author

Matthew White is the creator of the online Historical Atlas of the 20th Century. His data has been cited by forty-five published books and eighty scholarly articles. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Customer Reviews

Every one who can read should have this book.
Judith S. Stegall
The book is great as a secondary source to cite in any historical logic, research, and detailed summations for college purposes.
I highly recomend this book to any one interested in history.
Gustavo E. Oroza

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Bradley on November 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have long kept in my memory statistics such as the fact that the the Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648) managed to kill off 25% of the German population. Or there is my personal favorite - during the War of the Triple Alliance, the Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano Lopez improbably and imprudently led Paraguay in to a war against Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, which resulted in the deaths of something like 90% of the mature Paraguayan male population.

These statistics are simply imponderable. What was it like to live after the cataclysm of the Thirty Years War? How did Paraguay manage to continue as a nation after the debacle of the War of the Triple Alliance? How did these "democides" happen?

The Great Big Book of Horrible Things collects and ranks the Thirty Years War (Rank: 17) and the War of the Triple Alliance (Rank: 79) with ninety-eight other mind-boggling instances of man's inhumanity to man, and provides a brief synopsis of their causes, course and results, all done in a breezy and humorous approach to the all-too serious subject matter. This approach is not a flaw of the book. All but five or six of the wars are long-forgotten, and the fact that so many can die for what appear to be transient and ephemeral causes is a cautionary instruction for the modern age. Moreover, the effect that these statistics and the stories behind them have - particularly the ones removed from modernity - have on me is "Gosh!Wow!" as in "Gosh! Wow!" can you believe that Genghis Khan (Rank: 2) managed to kill 40 million human beings with nothing more than muscle powered weapons?!?!?

Each of the entries gets a fairly short write up that provides background, players, setting, course and effects of the particular piece of human tragedy being reviewed.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mike3746 on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book with some hesitation. Who wants to read about a billion deaths of human beings brought on by mass homicide? It almost says something about people who would find such a topic interesting. But, I am a student of history and after reading the table of contents, I thought it could give me a few insights I might not have previously heard of. I was delightfully correct. Just about every page I found new facts and insights on historical figures, some of which I had never heard of. And, as a huge plus, Matthew white has a charming writing style that somehow seems to make the study of such gruesome subject matter easy to read all without trivializing the human tragedy of it all. What monsters we humans can be? We are just ghastly creatures and particularly beastly toward our own kind. I came away from the book a bit ashamed I am of the same species as such creeps as "Genghis" Kahn and Napoleon Bonaparte, Mao Tse Tung and Joseph Stalin. I could find no refuge in my European ancestry, either; From famous British monsters who starved millions of Indian Hindus to death deliberately or Spanish conquistadores who systematically murdered and enslaved millions of North American indigenous people. My nationality was no help either as American slave masters and traders helped butcher millions more helpless Africans and slaughter more American natives. It is ghastly, and like any unfolding human disaster you just can't look away.

I also developed a rather intense sick feeling knowing human beings have changed very little over the last ten thousand years. We immodestly pat ourselves on the back as rising to unheard of levels of civilization and enlightened social intercourse.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very good work that dispells the myth that the majority of autrocites were caused by religion. I have heard the myth oft repeated, but this work presents facts that counter that statement. Yes, there have been autrocities in the name of religion and I am not justifying them in any way. However, the author sums up the number of deaths due to communism (Barely 160 years old) compared to religion (thousand of years old) and communism trumps religion by over 20 million. Just imagine how many would have been killed if communism was still being rolled out to new major countries. In his summation, religion is responsible for about 10% of the autrocities. Still not good, but hardly the worst offender.

I do have a few issues with Mr. White's work, but they are mostly where his bias conflicts with my bias and nothing excessively blatant.

I do disagree with him saying the 6 million Jews killed by Hitler were religious in nature. While, I understand his reasoning that the Jews and Germans were ethnically the same and it was only religion that defined them, I have to give creedence to the reasons Hitler and the Nazi party stated. Their arguments were not based on the difference in theology, but in the alledged genetic inferiority.

We can argue how he slices and dices the data, but if we do, we need to be able to provide a convincing argument as to why. In general I agree with his work. He appears to be consistent and thoughtful without being overly biased.

Available on Kindle, which is where I got my copy.
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Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History
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