This is exactly what it claims to be – a great big book of massacres, genocides, famines and every other man-made calamity to befall civilization since 480 BCE. No event makes the cut if the death toll isn’t reliably estimated at 300 000 or more. White doesn’t take sides, doesn’t differentiate between types of death, and his numbers are middle of the road. One of the categories in the summary chapter headings is “another damn”, as in “another damn Mongol invasion”, for example. Refreshingly, the book is global in scope, and the author’s breadth of knowledge and storytelling skills make it an entertaining, at times even funny, read. Any attempt to face our violent past must begin with the truth and this is what White has made a valiant attempt to give us, although I guarantee you’ll want to quibble.
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 7th, 2011