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The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The…
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The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of…

by Matthew White

Other authors: Steven Pinker (Foreword)

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1113108,775 (4)1 / 7
Recently added byprivate library, gcoupe, Faustgeist, BruceCoulson, JNSelko, Rosemary1989, evano, ethannewman
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White had me when he described his methodology for determining how many people died. Tax records (and what government doesn't keep careful records of those?), expenditures for handling bodies, other things that are carefully noted, even while leaders gloss over realities. Written in a breezy, wry style, White includes observations on religious wars (maybe we should believe the ancients when they said what they were fighting for?), communism, and other motivators for mass slaughter. White includes an extensive bibliography, along with ample notes as to how he reached his conclusions. Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in how and why these things happen. ( )
  BruceCoulson | May 6, 2014 |
Evangelists of human progress meet their opposite in Matthew White's epic examination of history's one hundred most violent events, or, in White's piquant phrasing, "the numbers that people want to argue about." Reaching back to 480 BCE's second Persian War, White moves chronologically through history to this century's war in the Congo and devotes chapters to each event, where he surrounds hard facts (time and place) and succinct takeaways (who usually gets the blame?) with lively military, social, and political histories. With the eye of a seasoned statistician, White assigns each entry a ranking based on body count, and in doing so he gives voice to the suffering of ordinary people that, inexorably, has defined every historical epoch. By turns droll, insightful, matter-of-fact, and ultimately sympathetic to those who died, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things gives readers a chance to reach their own conclusions while offering a stark reminder of the darkness of the human heart. 20 black-and-white illustrations and 4 maps ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
From the introduction:
"Aside from morbid fascination, is there any reason to know the one hundred highest body counts of history? Four reasons come to mind:
"First, things that happen to a lot of people are usually more important than things that happen to only a few people....
"Second, killing a person is the most you can do to him....
"Therefore, just by default, my one hundred multicides had a maximum impact on an enormous number of people. Without too much debate, I can easily label these to be among history's most significant events.
"....
"A third reason to consider is that we sometimes forget the human impact of historic events....
"The fourth and certainly most practical reason to gather body counts is for risk assessment and problem solving. If we study history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, it helps to know what those mistakes were, and that includes ALL of the mistakes, not just the ones that support certain pet ideas...." pg. xvi

"Despite my skepticism about any common thread running through all one hundred atrocities, I still found some interesting tendencies. Let me share with you the three biggest lessons I learned while working on this list:
"1. Chaos is deadlier than tyranny. More of these multicides result from the break-down of authority rather than the exercise of authority....
"2. The world is very disorganized. Power structures tend to be informal and temporary.... Most wars don't start neatly with declarations and mobilizations and end with surrenders and treaties.... Most nations are not as neatly delineated as you might expect....
"3. War kills more civilians than soldiers. In fact, the army is usually the safest place to be during a war...." pg. xvii
  maryoverton | Dec 23, 2011 |
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Matthew Whiteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pinker, StevenForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393081923, Hardcover)

A compulsively readable and utterly original account of world history—from an atrocitologist’s point of view.

Evangelists of human progress meet their opposite in Matthew White's epic examination of history's one hundred most violent events, or, in White's piquant phrasing, "the numbers that people want to argue about." Reaching back to 480 BCE's second Persian War, White moves chronologically through history to this century's war in the Congo and devotes chapters to each event, where he surrounds hard facts (time and place) and succinct takeaways (who usually gets the blame?) with lively military, social, and political histories. With the eye of a seasoned statistician, White assigns each entry a ranking based on body count, and in doing so he gives voice to the suffering of ordinary people that, inexorably, has defined every historical epoch. By turns droll, insightful, matter-of-fact, and ultimately sympathetic to those who died, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things gives readers a chance to reach their own conclusions while offering a stark reminder of the darkness of the human heart. 20 black-and-white illustrations and 4 maps

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:16 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Evangelists of human progress meet their opposite in Matthew White's epic examination of history's one hundred most violent events, or, in White's piquant phrasing, "the numbers that people want to argue about." Reaching back to 480 BCE's second Persian War, White moves chronologically through history to this century's war in the Congo and devotes chapters to each event, where he surrounds hard facts (time and place) and succinct takeaways (who usually gets the blame?) with lively military, social, and political histories. With the eye of a seasoned statistician, White assigns each entry a ranking based on body count, and in doing so he gives voice to the suffering of ordinary people that, inexorably, has defined every historical epoch. By turns droll, insightful, matter-of-fact, and ultimately sympathetic to those who died,… (more)

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