What is the deadliest war since World War II

Worst wars ever

The Global Stats video is simple but well done. The world map can be seen in muted gray-blue colors. It then shows the number of both military and civilian casualties in battles throughout world history. The graphic begins with a timeline at 547 BC. BC, every battle is shown with white letters and located with a red dot. In peaceful times the timeline runs faster; when war approaches, the years pass more slowly. The authors also rate sieges as battles, which resulted in fatal clashes. In the period between the First (1914-1918) and Second World War (1939-1945), the battles are summarized. The sad "Top 6 deadliest battles" are displayed on the left and continuously updated. The whole thing is accompanied by dramatic music: »Inflection« by the Australian composer Scott Buckley.

In terms of content, the video has some weaknesses. First of all, it is difficult to measure the historical significance of a battle or war in terms of the number of deaths. Global Stats includes civilians killed in the count. At least that is correct and important, because armed conflicts usually kill more civilians than soldiers - not necessarily as a result of the fighting, but in the past mainly from hunger, epidemics and - compared to today - catastrophic medical conditions. To count only the killed soldiers of the opposing armies would be deceptive against the background.

However, a military conflict can be politically or militarily more significant than the supposedly low number of victims suggests. The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, for example, ranks very low with "only" 19,000 deaths, but is one of the most important battles in the Scottish Wars of Independence of the late 13th and 14th centuries. And the struggle of the Scots for their independence - fortunately politically led today - has endured to the present day.

In the course of the video, the viewer sees that over the centuries the number of victims per battle has tended to increase, so there were more and more deaths per war. In absolute terms, the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. The First World War, which is also known as the “great catastrophe of the 20th century”, was the first industrially waged mass war in history with 17 million deaths. A few years later, 60 to 70 million people died in World War II. But historical events must always be viewed in the context of their time. In relative terms, armed conflicts in earlier times had a greater impact on the world's population. The Mongol invasion in the 13th century killed 40 million people. The world population at that time was just around 500 million people. Under Timur Lenk, the Turkish-Mongolian conqueror, every eighth person died on earth. The fact that absolutely more people died in wars in the 20th century than before is not necessarily due to the further development of weapon technology and military tactics. In the past there were simply fewer available people. Incidentally, on this date, the authors of the video went wrong by a few centuries: Timur conquered Dehli in 1398 and not around 1760 as shown.

The selection of the battles shown is also doubtful in some places. It is not necessarily surprising which battles are shown, but which ones did not make it into the video. A good example is the An Lushan revolt against the Chinese Tang dynasty from 756 to 763. The number of victims varies depending on the source. It is estimated that around 13 million people died in those seven years. At the time, that corresponded to a good five percent of the world's population. In that sense, this revolt was one of the worst wars of all time. However, this uprising does not play a role in the video.

The 30-year war is given as "8 million +" victims, which is controversial in research. The armed conflicts that lasted from 1618 to 1648 do not appear in the top 6, probably because it was not a single campaign, but a series of battles and skirmishes. In contrast to this, however, as mentioned above, battles from the two world wars are summarized. If one wants to highlight a single battle as the deadliest, it would probably be the Battle of Stalingrad, in which the Soviet Union and the German Reich faced each other with its allies from August 1942 to February 1943. It is considered to be one of the decisive turning points of the Second World War and cost the lives of around one million soldiers. 226,000 German soldiers died in the Stalingrad pocket, and another 300,000 allies were killed around Stalingrad.