The Least Violent Time Ever? Now.

This post’s title alone will offend many readers. And I’ll make it worse by telling you that the 20th was history’s least violent century, and the 21st is on track to do even better. “But modern man is the most depraved and murderous creature ever,” the critics will argue. “Look at the carnage of the two world wars, the atomic attacks on Japan, and the reigns of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot!” (A few will throw in George W. Bush too.)

Judith-head
A typical night on the town in the olden days?

What the critics won’t do is provide statistics to back their argument. But psychologist Steven Pinker does, in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011). Pinker cites hundreds of studies to support his claim that a human’s chance of dying at another human’s hands — through war or crime or their collateral effects — has been falling for centuries, was lower during the 20th Century than ever before, and is lower still today. Yes, we killed unprecedented numbers during the early 20th Century’s cataclysms. But there were lots of us, and an unprecedented percent lived free of violence. Continue reading “The Least Violent Time Ever? Now.”