The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities

Book - 2012
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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,
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton, c2012
ISBN: 9780393081923
Characteristics: xviii, 669 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Sep 07, 2017

Very interesting historical analyzes of mass death among the human population. Some of the events I was not aware of. The book is organized chronologically. But I grew tired of some of the entries. There is a lot of Chinese history here that I lost interest in. Many items are just a few pages long.

So I went to the index in the back of the book that listed the mass killing by size, largest first. These entries were also the longest with very good but brief explanations. I stopped at number 16, the Russian Civil War, 9 million dead.

Dec 08, 2016

The appendix on why some events weren't included just as interesting.
Originally debated online & the author was reluctant moderator.

Jul 16, 2012

A good "read next" suggestion for connoisseurs of The Guinness Book of World Records. Rating atrocities is like naming the highest star; it depends on your perspective. Overall numbers killed? Pain and suffering? Cultural genocide? Is an atrocity less bad if the result is at least somewhat good? Is killing a spirit as bad as killing a body? Are educated killers worse than uneducated killers? Matthew White wrestles with these questions, but his focus is hard numbers. Some of his conclusions are highly debatable, but usually interesting. This is a commendable effort to look at the issue without sentimentality or cultural bias. A dead body is a dead body, after all.


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