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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and fun look at the "Heart of Darkness."
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...
Published on November 20, 2011 by Peter S. Bradley

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20 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Headcount of the headless
This is a book about the episodes in history that resulted in mass killing. They are ranked according to the number of deaths. The crusades which resulted in 3 million deaths is ranked 30 and the Vietnam War with 24 million, is ranked 24th. The author included deaths in Laos and Cambodia. World War II took top place with 66 million and Ghenghis Khan with 40 million to his...
Published on November 24, 2011 by Hande Z


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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and fun look at the "Heart of Darkness.", November 20, 2011
This review is from: The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (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. The book covers a period from the Second Persian War (Rank: 96), circa 480 - 479, to the Second Congo War (Rank: 27) that ran from 1998 to 2002. The author Matthew White surveys the entire world, which results in entries from the Goguryeo-Sui Wars (Rank: 67) between Korea and China, crica 598 to 612 A.D., to the Bahmani-Vijayanagara Wather (Rank: 70) between Muslims and Hindus, circa 1366, in Indian, to the "Heart of Darkness" which was King Leopold I of Belgium's Congo Free State (Rank:14), circa 1865 - 1908. The result is a book that is easy to dip into to read whatever the reader is interested in, but then pulls the reader into reading "just another" selection, then another selection, as the reader is confronted by well-known and unknown mind-boggling, "Gosh! Wow!" histories of events whose passions have either died completely or are in the process of dying out.

The author has a couple of nice appendices where he crunches some numbers for determining who and what are the greatest killers. Although my senses was that he had a secularist bias, he was encouragingly even-handed in analyzing both the cliche that religion causes war and the contribution that Communism has made to mass-killing in the 20th Century. For my part, I was surprised by the number of Chinese rebellions that were inspired by a form of "Christianity," to wit, two: the Fang La Rebellion (Rank: 37) of 1120 - 1122 was led by "Vegetarian Demon Worshippers," i.e., Manichaeans, and the Taiping Rebellion (Rank: 6) of 1850 - 1864 was led by a person who fancied himself to be the "younger brother of Jesus Christ." Granted that there are a lot of Chinese rebellions that did not need to be ignited by a a Christian heresy, one has to marvel - Gosh! Wow! - about the fact that any of them - let alone two - were ignited by such an alien influence, as Christianity is to China, and ponder what effect that may have had on the antipathy of Communist China in the 20th Century to Christian missionaries. (Admittedly there are other reasons for Communists to suppress Christianity, but the virtue of a book like this one is that it allows such patterns to become apparent because of the breadth of its coverage.)

This is a great book to leave on the night stand or coffee table for those occasions when the reader has a few minutes to get lost in the the great ethnic cleansing of the Sino-Dzungar War (Rank: 67), circa 1755-1757, when China eliminated the Dzungar nation by eliminating something on the order of 600,000 Dzungars in an atrocity that has essentially been forgotten.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a train wrech, you just can't look away, December 29, 2011
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This review is from: The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (Hardcover)
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. But, whites history is unapologetically inclusive of recent acts of unspeakable barbarity, such as WWII, the senseless monstrosities from the Korean peninsula, and human induced horrors from Central Africa, and other acts of inhuman butchery many of which have happened in this century! White tries to find some pattern to it all in his closing chapters and yet, the reader has to come to the conclusion, there is nothing that can be directly blamed for it except gross human stupidity and madness of mob mentality. We really are a unique species in more way than just our so-called high intelligence. We are crafty apes, with murder in our black hearts. We are ruthless and selfish and pitiless. We are not just capable of grand individual sweeps of specie-cide, we seem to gladly and massively follow the inhuman and murderous orders of any tyrant willing to toss us a few crumbs of moldy bread to us so such evil creatures can magnify their well thought out horrors a million fold. It is fascinating and disgusting, horrible and informative, sickening and intriguing to learn this dark side to our own inner psyche. The word "humanity" takes on an entirely different shade after reading this well written and intensely informative book.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Myth Dispelling Work, January 30, 2012
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This review is from: The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (Hardcover)
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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20 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Headcount of the headless, November 24, 2011
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This review is from: The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (Hardcover)
This is a book about the episodes in history that resulted in mass killing. They are ranked according to the number of deaths. The crusades which resulted in 3 million deaths is ranked 30 and the Vietnam War with 24 million, is ranked 24th. The author included deaths in Laos and Cambodia. World War II took top place with 66 million and Ghenghis Khan with 40 million to his discredit took second spot. The episodes are in chronological order but there is a useful list of rankings from page 529 -531.

If the author's sources are accurate, the list can be useful. The book is a relatively large one with 638 pages (a list of three pages probably can't sell) because the author provides a short account of each episode. This is the part that some might find questionable, that is, whether his accounts are accurate. There are some inconsistencies, such as referring to Ghenhis Khan elsewhere in the book as Chingghis Khan. The accuracy of the accounts is best left to professional historians - Matthew White worked as a Law librarian, though he might consider himself an historian. His notes are too brief, and consequently, his conclusions seem a little superficial, if not entirely extreme. For instance, White says Mao Zedong was constantly tinkering with the country and attributed the deaths to this tinkering. This is probably too simplistic an analysis. "Tinkering" clearly calls for explanation and a fuller discussion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historically, Life Has No Value …, November 11, 2014
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ATROCITIES: THE 100 DEADLIEST EPISODES IN HUMAN HISTORY provides a blunt view at mankind’s destructive ways from the Second Persian War (480 BC) to the Second Congo War (2002). Between these two bookends are a multitude of wars, genocides, rebellions, crusades, revolts and general acts/missions of deadly cruelty that consumed hundreds of millions of lives. As astonishing as the sheer number of deaths are, even more astonishing is that author Matthew White only details and ranks (by death toll) the 100 deadliest events. What makes ATROCITIES such a worthy reference is not only the abundance of details, but the presentation of the material along with White’s mordant narration.

Organized in a chronological manner, each “episode” (war, genocide, etc.) is presented as a chapter. Each chapter includes a summary header that encapsulates the episode by including: death toll, participants, time frame, location, general reasoning behind episode, who or what’s to blame and the episode’s rank on the list of 100. Following the header, White delves into the dirty details of the event in a succinct manner that is rich with details. His witty summaries of each episode include a degree of sarcasm that somehow manages to blend the grave subject manner with a bit of humor. The humor relates mostly to how mankind’s stupidity often leads to mass death … many of the episodes presents will have readers shaking their heads. White makes the depressing topic rather enjoyable to read. There are no illustrations/pictures (other than the cover) and only a handful of maps in the book, but the text renders such visual aids unnecessary. The appendices at the end of the book provide the rationale behind the rankings, additional summarized data and the sources used to create the book.

Overall, ATROCITIES is a terrific and useful reference that brings to light many lesser-known historical events from all over the world. There were quite a few episodes that I had never heard of, especially in Africa. I have always enjoyed almanacs, older versions of the Guinness Book of World records and The Book of Lists, so this book really hit the mark with me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic bedtime read!, December 21, 2014
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Amazon Customer (San Diego, Ca, United States) - See all my reviews
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If you're a history buff or just like reading about human nature you'll really enjoy this book. It gives a nice general overview of major historical events but don't expect it to go into great details. If you want to know more about a specific event then you'll definitely need to read on your own. But, if you want a nice, casual stroll through history then this is your book!

It's divided up nicely and each event is highlighted in bite size chunks allowing you to read just one or two stories right before bed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good for people history nuts ... and everyone else, August 31, 2014
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My husband is a history nut but I am not. While I find it interesting, my attention span with a long history book wanes quickly. That being said, this book is great for both of us. It condenses information into easily read, quick summaries that all types of people can enjoy. This was a great purchase and I keep it handy for whenever I have a few extra minutes to cram in a chapter (which is usually anywhere from 2 - 7 pages).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book!, November 1, 2012
This review is from: The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (Hardcover)
We bought this book for a fifteen-year-old who constantly has school research projects. It has been ideal as a supplementary source for various reports and presentations. The chapter about the Civil War is particularly good; its first page alone offers one of the clearest overviews of the war we have ever read. Matthew White writes clearly and concisely, giving straightforward summaries of the biggest subjects. This is one of the best investments we've made. Our fifteen-year-old can use this book for every school report. We have never seen such a well-written book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars ... long been a fan of the website and was happy to find there was a book to purchase, July 11, 2014
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I have long been a fan of the website and was happy to find there was a book to purchase. "Atrocities" is an excellent, thoughtful, and fact-filled compendium of death tolls and human suffering in a well-organized format. The author gives his opinions and discusses how he arrived at them based on available sources. Full of information and very readable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate demographics/data, June 25, 2014
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This book provides detailed calculations in relations to the loss of life, illness, desertion, and disasters against humanity which led to the loss of life throughout a multitude of global events. The book is great as a secondary source to cite in any historical logic, research, and detailed summations for college purposes. Please buy or refer this to any professor, teacher, and especially...students in need of a great source.
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The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities
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