Death By Government
Chapter 1: "20th Century Democide"
Chapter 2: "Definition of Democide"
Other Democide Related Documents On This Site
Graduate Syllabus on Repression and Democide
Statistics of Democide (entire)
Agamemnon: "My dear Menelaus, why are you so chary of taking men's lives? Did the Trojans treat you as handsomely as that when they stayed in your house? No; we are not going to leave a single one of them alive, down to the babies in their mothers' wombs--not even they must live. The whole people must be wiped out of existence, and none be left to think of them and shed a tear." |
Sargon had the defeated king of Damascus burned alive before his eyes. The wives and daughters of the captured king were destined for the Assyrian harems and those who were not of noble blood were condemned to slavery. Meanwhile the soldiery had been massacring the population, and brought the heads of their victims into the king's presence, where they were counted up by the scribes. Not all the male prisoners were put to death, for the boys and craftsmen were led into captivity, where they would be assigned to the hardest tasks on the royal building projects, where the swamps which cover so much of Mesopotamia must have caused an enormously high rate of mortality. The remainder of the population were uprooted and sent to the other end of the Empire. . . .|
But such barbarity not only happened in classical times. After the capture of Bram in 1210, the Albigensian Crusaders, Christians all, took 100 of the captured soldiers and gouged out their eyes, cut off their noses and upper lips, and had them led by a one-eyed man to Cabaret, yet to be attacked.
Genocide, massacre, and human slaughter; pillage, rape, and torture have been much more common than war and revolution. But historians do not dwell on such events. And even if they do, they very rarely attach numbers to them. They prefer the glamour of war, of diplomacy, of the clash of nations and personalities. So in revenge for an arrow from Nishapur's walls that killed Jinghiz Khan's son-in-law in 1221, when the city was finally captured the Mongol Tolui massacred its unarmed inhabitants.
Surely one may point out that such killings were then the stuff of war and thus not of interest apart from war, no more than is a particular bloody battle. But some battles have been the focus of much historical interest. Who has not read in detail about the battle of Thermopylae pass in 480 B.C., where a small Greek force held out to the last man for three days against an invading Persian army. In truth, massacres are simply not of great interest. They are horrible, despicable, loathsome acts of the state or its agents. They are outright mass murder. And, apparently say the historians, it is best not to dwell on them.
Those cases of mass murder for which historians do estimate the toll are only a small number of those mentioned in the literature. Historians will note, for example, that "40 cities and towns were sacked and all inhabitants massacred in the conquest," or "the city was finally taken and all killed;" or being specifically unspecific: "The scene of desolation that must have presented itself in the northern borderland of Persia at this time is terrible. From the banks of the Oxus to Asterabad every town of any importance was reduced to ruins, and its inhabitants slaughtered by the Mongols."
There are other cases of mass killing that are beyond belief, but for which specific numbers are unrecorded. For example, it is written that in the 12th and 13th centuries the Sultan of Delhi, Kutb-d Din Aibak, slaughtered his subjects by the hundreds of thousands,
In any case, we can make note of the various institutions, revolutions, wars, empires, states, and social patterns through or by which people have been murdered en masse. One such is slavery. Until modern times slavery was almost universal, and in most parts of the world the slave's life was wholly dependent upon the master. But even before being sold, millions of people were killed while being pressed into legal slavery--during slave raids, transportation on slave ships and in overland convoys--or they died from associated deprivation and disease. In the 16th to 19th centuries alone the death toll among African slaves being transported to the New World may have been over 1,500,000,
But slavery was just one of many historical institutions through which people were murdered en mass. Another was the massacre. The most noted of these have been committed by armies during crusades, war, or conquest. It was not rare for armies to butcher tens of thousands of unarmed men, women, and children in captured towns and the neighboring countryside. In this the Mongol armies have had no peers. I mentioned the 1,747,000 people possibly killed in Nishapur. In 1219 Jinghiz Kahn's army captured Bokhara and allegedly murdered 30,000; and another 30,000 people in capturing Samarkand.
It is written that in 1221, the Mongol Tului slew 700,000 to 1,300,000 people in Meru Chahjan, one of the four main cities of Khorassan in the Northern borderland of Persia. Upon capture the inhabitants were made to evacuate the city, a four-day task. Then they were distributed among the Mongols and massacred. It took 13 days to count corpses. Among those who hid from the massacre, 5,000 were killed by Mongol detachments when they later emerged.
Also, the entire population of Rayy, a city with 3,000 mosques, was slaughtered.
seized from him his tents, his treasure-laden camels, all his people, till all this was scattered as so much ash. Tanguts of an age to bear arms he had slaughtered, the lords being first to die . . . . As to the rest, he left these orders for his soldiers As many Tanguts as you can take are yours to do as you please with.|
When in 1233 the last Tangut capital, Ning-hsia, fell to the Mongols, as willed by the dying Jinghiz before his death, all defenders were killed to the last generation. "The Conqueror of the world had for his funeral rites the massacre of an entire people."
The Mongols subsequently invaded what is Iraq and in 1258 the Mongol Khulagu captured Baghdad, sacked and burned the city, including most mosques, and reportedly annihilated 800,000 of its people.
something indescribably revolting in the cold savagery with which the Mongols carried out their massacres. The inhabitants of a doomed town were obliged to assemble in a plain outside the walls, and each Mongol trooper, armed with battle-axe, was told to kill so many people, ten, twenty or fifty. As proof that orders had been properly obeyed, the killers were sometimes required to cut off an ear from each victim, collect the ears in sacks, and bring them to their officers to be counted. A few days after the massacre, troops were sent back into the ruined city to search for any poor wretches who might be hiding in holes or cellars; these were dragged out and slain.|
Such horrible mass murder was part of their strategy. They wanted to so terrorize those in their path of conquest that cities and nations would immediately surrender when the first armed Mongols were seen in the distance. Better to bow and acknowledge a new lord than chance fighting, losing, and everyone dying.
Even well over a century after Jinghiz Khan's death, the Mongols still were engaged in conquest, spreading destruction and death from one part of Asia to another. Tamerlane (or Timur Lenk), a Turk who proclaimed himself restorer of the Mongol Empire,
razed Isfarã'in to the ground in A.D. 1381; built 2,000 prisoners into a living mound and then bricked them over at Sabsawãr in 1383; piled 5,000 human heads into minarets at Zirih in the same year; cast his Luri prisoners alive over precipices in 1386; massacred 70,000 people and piled the heads of the slain into minarets at Isfahan in 1387; . . . buried alive 4,000 Christian soldiers of the garrison of Sivas after their capitulation in 1400; and built twenty towers of skulls in Syria in 1400 and 1401.|
As best I can figure from such accounts, and recognizing that at best they all are the roughest approximations, the Mongol khans and their successors and pretenders possibly slaughtered around 30,000,000 Persian, Arab, Hindu, Russian, Chinese, European, and other men, women, and children.
While the Mongol Khans may have established an historical record for individual massacres, surely various Chinese Emperors were in their league. Observe the bacchanalia of blood by Chang Hsien-chung when, near the end of the Ming Dynasty in 1644, he conquered Szechwan province and in Chengtu declared himself emperor of the Great Western Kingdom. The Chinese chronicles say that when the scholars rejected his imperial claim he immediately had them all massacred. Then he set about destroying all the merchants, then all the women and all the officials. Finally he ordered his own soldiers to kill each other. He ordered the feet of the officers' wives to be cut off and made a mound of-them, and at the top of the mound he placed the feet of his favorite concubines. For some reason he was obsessed with ears and feet, and since it was too much trouble to bring the bodies of the villagers who lived in remote outlying districts to Chengtu, he ordered his private guards to bring him their ears and feet, and he carefully counted them. When the massacre was over, he ordered that there should be placed in a prominent position in Chengtu an inscription carved in stone, reading:
Heaven brings forth innumerable things to help man.
Man has nothing with which to recompense Heaven.
Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.
Even the great emperor who unified China and gave it his name, Qin (pronounced Chin) Shihuang, buried alive 346 scholars in order to discourage opposition.
As one Chinese dynasty was taken over from another their was a tremendous loss of life from war, mass murder, and associated hardship, famine, and disease. This can be seen from the resulting steep declines in population--really demographic catastrophes, proportionally akin to that which took place in Cambodia in 1975-1979 with the takeover by the bloody Khmer Rouge. Consider that
in the eight years that the Han Dynasty was being replaced by the Qin Dynasty 221-207B.C., the population of China decreased from 20 million to 10 million.
. . . .
In the Dong (Eastern) Han Dynasty 206B.C.-220A.D., the population of China was 50 million. After the transition of power to the Three Kingdom period 222-589, the population decreased to 7 million.
. . . .
In the Sui Dynasty 581-618, the population of China was 50 million. After the transfer of power to the Tang Dynasty 618-907, only one third was left.
. . . .
At the peak of the Song Dynasty 960-1279 the population was about 100 million. But in the beginning of the Qing Dynasty in 1655, the population was 14,033,900. During the 20 year period from 1626 to 1655, the population decreased from 51,655,459 to 14,033,900.
Some sense for the pure slaughter underlying these population collapses can be had from more recent massacres. For example, just in the one month of 1681, for just the Triad Rebellion, in merely the one province of Kwangtung, with the rebellions defeat "some 700,000 people were executed." Eventually the province was almost depopulated.
The sanctity of life was no greater nearer our time. During the last century in over some fifteen years the Teiping Rebellion possibly cost "tens of millions" of lives,
When the Taiping rebels captured Nanking in 1853 they killed all the Tartars garrisoning the city. But this was not enough. They also murdered all their family members. In total about 25,000 people may have been wiped out.
But there is more. There also was the nearly concurrent Moslem uprisings with their attendant slaughter. For the province of Yunnan 5,000,000 out of 8,000,000 may have died. When the last Muslim stronghold fell to imperial forces, 20,000 men, women, and children were "put to the sword."
The number of Chinese and their subjects so murdered down through the centuries must be in the tens of millions, even excluding the Mongol carnage. Putting together population crashes and massacre estimates, I guess that roughly around 34,000,000 Chinese and their subjects were killed in cold blood. It is not inconceivable that this historical democide might even exceed 90,000,000 dead.
In massacre and generalized killing, other nations made their own very bloody contributions to our history. When the Ottoman Mohammed II sieged and finally took Constantinople in 1452, he massacred thousands.
In destroying whole populations and in the pursuit and accomplishment of mass murder, Europeans were no better. In 1527 the army of Tirolese condottiere Frunsberg and Charles, Duke of Bourbin, captured and sacked Rome. Historians record that at a minimum 2,000 corpses were thrown into the Tiber river and 9,800 dead were buried;
And the Crusades of the Middle Ages should not be ignored. In the aforementioned 1099 sack of Jerusalem, besides the 40,000 to over 70,000 Moslems that may have been butchered, the Crusaders herded surviving Jews into a synagogue and burned them alive.
That such killing is done by armies during war, crusades, or conquest should not mitigate the responsibility of governments. Often the heads of governments have led their armies; generals have sometimes been rewarded for their bloody deeds, and in any case, not punished. Governments generally accepted the fruits of their military victories, not excluding the riches of wealthy cities that were sacked, no matter the human cost in innocent lives. That such killing was traditional or customary, or served a military purpose (removing an enemy population from the rear; creating terror and fear among populations in the line of advance), or gave incentive to the troops (rape and booty in the offing), or enriched the state, should not lessen in our eyes the monstrous immorality of this killing.
Besides the siege-take-and-massacre during war or conquest, there is that generalized murder in or after rebellions or revolutions. Here the responsibility of government is more direct. We have already seen much of this in the Teiping and Moslem rebellions in China. History is full of other examples, such as the 1876 Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire that was brutally suppressed by the Sultan: about 60 villages were destroyed, and 12,000 to 15,000 massacred. In one reported incident, a church was set ablaze to burn alive the 1,200 people who had gathered inside for protection.
One of the best publicized historical democides is that of the Great Terror of 1793-1794 in revolutionary France. The Revolutionary Tribunal and its equivalent in the provinces may have executed up to 20,000 of the nobility, political opponents, and alleged traitors.
A particular kind of massacre is that of scapegoats for major human disasters. The presence of Jews in Christian Europe has always provided an easy explanation for catastrophes like the plague. "Why are people getting sick and dying on mass? Because the Jews are poisoning the water." Jews everywhere were thus attacked during the Black Death of 1347-1352 that killed around 25,000,000 Europeans. Jews were massacred wholesale. For example, in Mainz, Germany, 6,000 were recorded killed; in Erfurt 3,000 died. "By the end of the plague, few Jews were left in Germany or the Low Countries."
As already shown, mass murder is not confined to legitimate governments and their agents. Rebellious groups or nations sometimes succeed in forming a temporary government and as did the Teiping rebels use their power to slaughter civilians and massacre suspected opponents. Although hardly significant in its scope, to an American one of the more interesting of these is the Mountain Meadows Massacre by the Mormons. To escape persecution by Gentiles, the Mormons had fled west to the Utah Territory and succeeded in turning it into a de facto, independently governed theocracy. Seeking revenge for past wrongs done them by Gentiles and in a declared state of war against the federal government, church leaders assembled Indian "confederates" to set up an ambush at Mountain Meadows of a passing wagon train of twenty to twenty-five prosperous immigrant families. During the resulting battle, Mormon militia appeared, ostensibly to save the train from the Indians, but after disarming the defenders by a ruse they slaughtered 121 men, women, and children (some escaped to tell the tale).
Then there are the colonial "peace-keeping" massacres of tribes or primitive groups engaged in raiding or limited tribal warfare. One example is an 1849 expedition sent out against certain native tribes of the coast of Borneo. Under the direction of Sir James Brooke, British Rajah of Sarawak, it annihilated a force of Dyaks then allegedly returning from a piratical excursion against coastal tribes. About 1,500 to 2,000 of them were killed by cannon shot, musket, grapeshot. This was simply a wanton massacre of a native tribe engaged in traditional limited, native warfare.
Sometimes natives or offending groups were simply killed. An extraordinary case of this was the Dutch orchestration of the massacre of the Chinese in Jakarta (then Batavia). The Dutch first had the Chinese confined
inside the walls of Batavia, stripping them of the smallest kitchen knife and putting them under a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The Dutch then distributed arms to what they themselves called "the low-class masses" and gave these "mobs" a free hand to massacre the helpless Chinese. The rapine inside Batavia was allowed to go on from the 9th to the 22nd of October, 1740. While the "mobs" were despatching Chinese lives inside Batavia, the Dutch East India Company troops killed those who had fled from the city before the curfew and roamed in Batavia's environs.
At the end of the "Grand Guignol" inside Batavia, most sources agree, 10,000 city-Chinese lost their lives, but little is said about the many more who must have perished outside the city's walls. Of the 80,000-odd Chinese in Batavia's environs prior to the extermination only around 3,000 survived. . . .
Finally, it is notable that the Dutch declared an open season on the Chinese all over Java. Governor General Valckenier mentioned that in June 1741 the Council of the Indies voted for a "general massacre of the Chinese over the whole of Java." Thus, 6 months after the first slaughter, a rerun took place in Semarang (Central Java). Likewise, "in other parts of Java the violence continued . . . where i.a. the Chinese of Soerabaia and Grisee East Java were also massacred."
Not to be overlooked is that democide associated with the clash of civilizations and in particularly the European conquest of the Americas. There is no ambiguity about the outright massacres that occurred, such as the Puritan killing of 500-600 Pequot Indians at Mystic Fort in 1637
While these were the largest American massacres, there undoubtedly were numerous small ones. Moreover, many Indians were killed by vigilantes while local government looked the other way, or were murdered individually by settlers. Taking all the army-Indian battles and massacres into account, probably no more than some 3,000 Indians were killed in the years 1789 to 1898. Settlers and vigilantes likely killed a thousand more. Since many of these Indians were killed in pitched battles, it seems very unlikely that the number of Indians massacred outright by Calvary and settlers in the American West could have been more than 4,000, and was probably a good number less.
For example there was the fate of the Californian Yuki Indians. Originally having a population of around 3,500, in a little more than thirty years its numbers fell to about 400 through "kidnapping, epidemics, starvation, vigilante justice, and state sanctioned mass killing."
But these estimates are only a fraction of the overall democide among Indians that inhabited all the Americas. Before the conquest of the New World the Indian population may have numbered from 8,000,000 to 110,000,000;
Judging what proportion of this mammoth toll constituted democide by the invading armies and colonists is hardly better than picking a number out of the air. No doubt there was much indiscriminate and outright murder. No doubt conditions were forcibly imposed on whole tribes that led to their rapid near extinction. No doubt large numbers of Indians died from inhuman treatment, especially under forced labor. And no doubt in some cases disease may have been knowingly spread.
Natives elsewhere were similarly mistreated and murdered. The Australian Aborigine, for example, were massacred by soldiers and killed indiscriminately by settlers, often with actual or tacit government approval. In Tasmania alone by 1832 as many as 700 out of an original population of 1,000 may have been killed.
The manner in which some of this killing was conducted is clear from the Burke Town Correspondent's report in the Port Denison Times of June 4th, 1868:
"I much regret to state that the blacks have become very troublesome about here lately. Within ten miles of this place they speared and cut steaks from the rumps of several horses. As soon as it was known, the Native Police, under Sub-Inspector Uhr, went out, and, I am informed, succeeded in shooting upwards of thirty blacks. No sooner was this done than a report came in that Mr. Cameroon had been murdered at Liddle and Hetzer's station . . . Mr. Uhr went off immediately in that direction, and his success I hear was complete. . . .Everybody in the district is delighted with the wholesale slaughter dealt out by the native police, and thank Mr. Uhr for his energy in ridding the district of fifty-nine (59) myalls"|
Such killing of natives verges on genocide, and doubtless this was the intention of some settlers. The complicity of the Australian government is an open question, however. But the role of government in some other recorded genocidal massacres is clear. For example, I have already mentioned some acts of genocide, or attempts to liquidate in whole or in part racial, religious, ethnic, or cultural groups, such as Sultan Tughlak's systematic slaughter of Hindus. It is recorded that in the 12th or 13 century Sultan Firoz Shaw invaded Bengal and offered a reward for every Hindu head, subsequently paying for 180,000 of them. Whenever in his territory the number of Hindus killed in one day totaled 20,000, Sultan Ahmad Shah celebrated with a three-day feast.
Although not competing in numbers with those massacred in Asia and the Americas, Europeans had their share of such genocidal massacres. An illustrative case is the St. Bartholomew massacre. On August 24th, 1572, King Charles IX or his Court unleashed a slaughter of French Calvinists that spread from Paris to the whole country. In this famous St. Bartholomew day massacre a contemporary Protestant estimated that 300,000 were killed; later estimates reduced this to 100,000, then 36,000.
A more recent example of genocidal massacres is given by the Ottoman Empire. It was composed of diverse nations, which were often treated with great cruelty by the ruling Turks. Their massacre of Bulgarians in 1876 has already been mentioned. This was but one of many massacres of national groups. In 1822 they allegedly killed 50,000 Greeks, largely in Scio (Chios); 10,000 Nestorians and Armenians in Kurdistan in 1850; and 11,000 Maronites and Syrians in Lebanon and Damascus in 1860.
Such Massacres and genocides as those of the Mongols and Ottomans are episodic, usually discrete in time or place. But there are other types of government killing that are routine or ritualistic and except for the more dramatic events may simply involve a few people killed in cold blood here, a few there, but across the land and years these numbers accumulate to a colossal slaughter. Such was the Catholic Church's treatment of heretics, who were hunted and when allegedly found tortured, burned at the stake, or left to die of privation and disease in dungeons. During the Thirteenth Century Albigensian Crusade in France, for example, historians count 140 heretics burned to death at Minerva, 400 in Lavaur, 60 in Cassè, 183 in Montwimer, 210-215 at Montségur, and 80 in Barleiges.;
The Spanish Inquisition established in 1480 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and that was led from 1483 to 1498 by the Dominican monk de Torquemada may have burned to death as many as 10,220 heretics in total; 125,000 possibly died from torture and privation in prison.
which was carefully selected as among the most poignant that man can suffer. They were usua11y burnt alive. They were burnt alive not infrequently by a slow fire. They were burnt alive after their constancy had been tried by the most excruciating agonies that minds fertile in torture could devise.|
The Catholic Church's attempt to so purge heretics had its counterpart in the Reformation Protestant's campaign against witches. Witches were believed to have sold their soul to the Devil for magical powers. While the Salem witch trials of Massachusetts in 1692 give the impression that early Americans were particularly prone to this superstition, it was really in Europe, particularly in Germany and France, that the torture and killing of alleged witches was most prevalent. Under Calvin's government of Geneva in 1545, for example, thirty-four women were recorded burned or quartered for witchcraft. In the late years of the 16th Century, witch hunts reached their peak. In some German cities historians estimate that as many as 900 "witches" in a year were killed, often after agonizing torture to force out confessions; in some villages hardly a women was left alive. In total, throughout Christendom more than 30,000 "witches" may have killed;
Whether of heretics or witches, this was a religiously induced and ritualistic form of government killing. Witches were presumably allied with Satan; heretics presumably had defied or defiled God. Sacrifice is another religion-based form of killing that is government practiced or approved. As an appeasement of or offering to a deity, sacrifice has often been extravagant in lives. Just consider the Grand Custom in Dahomey. When a ruler died hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of prisoners would be slain. In one of these ceremonies in 1727, as many as 4,000 were reported killed.
The Inca of Peru also made human sacrifices, but on a much smaller scale. These were usually associated with the accession of a king or his death, or that of some other high personage. Sacrifice might be made if such a person was severely ill. In the case of a ruler dying, his servants, court officials, favorites, and concubines would be killed. As many as 4,000 paid this price upon the death of the Inca Huayna Capac, for example.
Government administered or permitted sacrifice is a vast historical dimension of the slaughtered innocents. Unlike the few recorded cases, as for the Aztecs and Dahomey, the number of unknown people decapitated, punctured, burned, sliced, stoned, beaten, or suffocated to death against their will to appease or glorify some deity, or celebrate or inaugurate some occasion or building, is uncounted, but must add up over the world and centuries to millions, if not tens of millions of dead. Even when cities or nations were faced with defeat in war, human sacrifices were made to appease the gods. Thus Carthage, besieged by the Roman army in 146 B.C., killed 200 sons of noble families as an offering to Baal.
It is hard to find a tribe, kingdom, or ancient civilization that did not practice sacrifice of some sort. In my home state of Hawaii, well before colonization by the United States, people would be killed if the Hawaiian king got sick and more would continue to be slain, sometimes twenty at a time, until he got well. If he died, then his household would be killed too keep him company in the next world. In building a royal canoe, a man would be killed at the base of the tree from which the wood was cut; another when it was finished; others at the launching ceremony.
One kind of sacrifice must not go unmentioned, although virtually ignored in the literature. This is the sacrifice of colonial subjects through forced labor to satisfy private greed or state power. The work gangs of the 20th century gulags in the Soviet Union and Communist China are not an invention of our era. In some form or another they have always existed, as has forced labor to discharge fraudulent debts or contracts; or by contract with the head of a tribe. All the European colonial powers seemed to have extorted labor from their subjects in Africa, Asia, and the New World through such devices. For the Spanish, German, and Portuguese subjects, this was particularly deadly. In some cases the average colonial plantation or estate laborer may not have survived for more than a couple of years. It was sometimes easier or cheaper to "replenish the stock" than provide health maintaining food, clothing, medical care, and living quarters. I suspect that at a rock bottom minimum 10,000,000 colonial forced laborers must have died thusly.
This does not even weigh the human cost of the state's conventional forced labor--that of subjects compelled to man galleys, sail ships (as by the operation of press gangs in British ports), carry supplies and weapons in time of war or rebellion, build pyramids, construct fortifications, or build roads, bridges, dams, canals, and the like. Indeed, the use of such forced labor or corvée has been traditional in Asia, even up to recent decades. Sometimes this labor served in lieu of taxes, where the subject was decreed to owe to the king or emperor or state a month or more of labor per year. While perhaps justifiable in theory, the practice often meant that overseers would execute the laborer that was too often late for work, slow on the job, sickly, or critical of the work. This treatment of their forced laborers--the whole Cambodian population--by the Khmer Rouge of our time, as described in chapter 9 of Death By Government, mirrors that of many if not most regimes throughout history.
Yet another type of government killing whose victims may total millions is infanticide. In many cultures government permitted, if not encouraged, the killing of handicapped or female infants, or otherwise unwanted children. In the Greece of 200 B.C., for example, the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters.
were thrown into rivers, dung heaps, and cesspools. Wild animals were everywhere. Feeding upon children was part of their sustenance, as Euripides noted in his play Ion, "A prey for birds, food for wild beasts, too. . ."
. . . .
Cities became deserted and the land became barren. Family life was disappearing.
Indeed, the law demanded that imperfect children must be killed; and someone thus even wrote a text on How to Recognize a Newborn That Is Worth Rearing.
But classical Greece was not unusual. In eighty-four societies spanning the Renaissance to our time, "defective" children have been killed in one-third of them.
Perhaps so would also that for official state executions for social or political reasons or for, in our contemporary perspective, trivial infractions, such as stealing bread or criticizing the royal garden. Consider that just in London in the last eleven years of Henry the VIII's reign, there were some 560 executions per year--over one a day.
Aside from state executions there are the untold millions that have died in prison or other forms of detention from simple mistreatment, neglect, malnutrition, exposure, and preventable disease, as in the Soviet gulag. The inhumanity of France's penal colony called Devils Island (in French Guiana) is well known. Less well known was the sometimes barbarous nature of the transportation of convicts to Australia by Britain, sometimes a horrible voyage of as much as eight months. For one such fleet of convicts
267 died aboard and three vessels alone landed sick convicts of whom 124 died almost immediately. The dead were thrown naked into Sydney harbor. An army officer aboard, Cap Hill, pointed out that the masters of the transport ships, unlike slave captains, had no financial interest in landing their human cargo in healthy condition: "The slave traffic is merciful compared to what I have seen in this fleet." Evidence given to Parliament in 1812 showed that those transported included boys and girls of 12 and men and women over 80.|
Then throughout history there has been the particularly lethal treatment of prisoners of war. If their lives were spared they were often sent to slave in mines, on galley ships, in swamps, or at other labor that killed them off rapidly. The Mongols used their prisoners in the front ranks when attacking fortified cities and towns, and forced them to fill in moats or prepare catapults close to the dangerous walls. If not turned into slaves, prisoners of war were often simply killed, captured garrisons massacred. Thus the Crusaders killed 2,500 Moslem prisoners before Acra.
advanced on Delhi after winning many victories and capturing a hundred thousand prisoners, it occurred to him that he had only to threaten to kill all his prisoners and the rulers of the city would capitulate. Unfortunately the ruse failed, and Tamerlane found himself in a position which he found distasteful, especially since most of the prisoners had already been given as slaves to his amirs, his officers, and the scholars who were in his retinue. He issued orders that all the prisoners 100,000 of them! were to be strangled within an hour. A contemporary chronicler speaks of the repugnance felt by a scholar, who would not have voluntarily slain even a sheep, when he saw his fifteen slaves being strangled.|
And Sixteenth Century Sultan Sûleyman (The Magnificent), who extended the Ottoman Empire to its maximum power, left proof that his murder of thousands of prisoners was no more significant than the weather. Consider just one day in his words from his campaign diary: "The emperor, seated on a golden throne, receives the homage of the viziers and the beys; massacre of 2,000 prisoners; the rain falls in torrents."
Even in Europe up to modern times the slaughtering of captured garrisons was not unusual. During the Thirty Years War, for example, Count of Tilly captured Neubrandenburg in 1631 and allegedly killed the garrison of 3,000; and the same year Gustavus, King of Sweden, captured the garrison of 2,000 at Frankfurt an der Oder and killed them all.
Finally, there is the killing that takes place on a ruler's whim. A pointed finger, a slight nod, and some noble, attendant, concubine, or commoner is immediately grabbed and done away with. Two examples should suffice to clarify this type of government murder. During the British colonization of India, a "party given by the Mogul governor of Surat, the very first British settlement, was rudely interrupted when the host fell into a sudden rage and ordered all the dancing girls to be decapitated on the spot, to the stupefaction of his English guests."
Shaka, the King of the African Zulus, was a similarly impulsive murderer. Those in attendance to him or in conference with him never knew when he might point them out for immediate death. No reason was ever given. One of the first white man to visit Shaka observed that
on the first day of our visit we had seen no less than ten men carried off to death. On a mere sign from Shaka, viz: the pointing of his finger, the victim would be seized by his nearest neighbors; his neck would be twisted, and his head and body beaten with sticks, the nobs of some of these being as large as a man's fist. On each succeeding day, too, numbers of others were killed; their bodies would then be carried to an adjoining hill and there impaled. We visited this spot on the fourth day. It was truly a Golgotha, swarming with hundreds of vultures.|
Of all this pre-twentieth century, killing--massacres, infanticide, executions, genocides, sacrifices, burnings, deaths by mistreatment, and the like--that to which we can put numbers add up to a grand total of from near 89,000,000 to slightly over 260,000,000 million men, women, and children dead. An appropriate mid-democide estimate might be around 133,000,000 killed. The more exact total given by a variety of calculations is shown in table 3.1 along with the more extraordinarily bloody or interesting cases I have sketched above. To get some idea as to how far this total may be off, observe that if government massacred people in previous centuries in the same proportion to world population as in our century, then as shown in the table's hypothetical total (calculated from the 20th century democide rate derived in Death By Government and the world's population for each century since 30 B.C.
Whatever, there is no need to know the actual number that government has killed to see that it has been truly a cold-blooded, mass murderer, a global plague of man's own making. While diseases may have killed more people in a shorter time, perhaps 25,000,000 died from the Black Plague in Europe from 1348 to 1349,
Not even considered here is the human cost of war, another way governments are an agency of death. For the years 1740 to 1897 there were reportedly 230 international and revolutionary wars; and according to one count these killed 20,154,000 people.
The question for my book Death By Government is not whether such killing has continued into the twentieth century, which no informed reader would deny. Rather the question is about the form this killing has taken and its toll. In answering this I want to be as precise as possible about the numbers. And the better data available for our century should help to answer the what and particularly the why of such awful destruction of human life.
* From the pre-publisher edited manuscript of Chapter 3 in R.J. Rummel, Death By Government, 1994. For full reference this book, the list of its contents, figures, and tables, and the text of its preface, click book.
1. Contenau (1954, p. 148).
2. Oldenbourg, (1961, p. 136).
3. Saunders (1971, p. 60-61).
4. Ibid. p. 61.
5. This toll for the massacre at Nishapur is reported by Durant (1950, p. 339), Saunders (1971, p. 241n.6), Howorth (1965, p. 88), and Petrushevsky (1968, p. 485). Only Petrushevsky claims it is an improbable figure. A massacre this large does seem numerically impossible, but consider: The inhabitants of a captured city would often be divided among the Mongol soldiers for killing, possible as many as several dozen or more to a man. Moreover, Mongol armies could be as large as 100,000 men or more, and the massacres might go on for weeks. Nonetheless, any such figures must be understood as simply suggestive of a possible order of magnitude.
6. Oldenbourg (1966, p. 140); Durant (1950, pp. 591-592).
7. Howorth (1965, p. 92).
8. Durant (1954, p. 463).
9. Ibid., p. 461.
10. Manning (1992, p. 119).
11. Johnson (1991b, p. 321).
12. Manning (1992, p. 119).
13. From Statistics of Democide.
14. Howorth (1965, p. 79); Durant (1950, p. 339).
15. Durant (1950, p. 339).
16. Howorth (1961, p. 82).
17. Ibid., p. 86.
18. Ibid., 1965, p. 87.
19. Durant (1950, p. 339).
20. Howorth (1965, p. 91). Without citation, Durant (1950, p. 339) claims that 60,000 were killed.
21. Grousset (1966, p. 278).
22. Ibid., p. 280.
24. Quoted in Ibid., pp. 286-287. "The elimination cannot, however, have been quite total, since a considerable number of Tangut subjects were allotted to the Lady Yesüi." (Ibid., p. 287).
25. Howorth (1965, p. 200); Durant (1950, p. 340).
26. Saunders (1971, p. 65).
27. Toynbee (1947, p. 347).
28. From Statistics of Democide.
29. Howorth (1965, p. 381n.1).
30. Ibid. (1965, p. 381).
31. Payne (1973, p. 64).
32. Cox (1989, p. 1).
33. Guantao (1984).
35. Purcell (1963, p. 166).
36. Chesneaux (1973, p. 39).
37. Michael and Taylor (1975, p. 183).
38. Purcell (1963, p. 168).
39. Ho (1959, p. 237).
40. Quoted in Ibid., p. 239.
41. Chesneaux (1973, p. 40).
42. Pelissier (1967, p. 109).
43. Ibid., p. 157.
44. Purcell (1963, p. 167).
45. T'ien (1981, p. 1).
46. Ho (1959, p. 247).
47. See Statistics of Democide.
48. Durant (1957, p. 183).
49. Severy (1987, p. 566).
50. Durant (1953, p. 632).
51. Wright, 1965, p. 244n.67; Durant (1961, p. 563).
52. Wedgwood (1961, p. 496).
53. Wright (1965, p. 244n.67).
54. See Statistics of Democide.
55. Recall that I define as democide a famine and disease that is intentionally man-made with reckless abandon for human life, such as by an army purposely laying waste to the countryside.
56. Durant (1950, pp. 591-592). Oldenbourg (1966, p. 140) puts the overall number at nearly 40,000 killed.
57. Quoted in Oldenbourg (1966, p. 137).
58. de Sismondi (1826, p. 37).
59. Durant (1950, p. 393).
60. Walker (1980, p. 107).
61. Paris (1961, p. 4); Encyclopædia Britannica (1973, Vol. 1, p. 504).
62. Medvedev (1971, p. 269); Burns and Ralph (1955, Vol. 2, p. 95); Sydenham (1965, Chapter 8).
63. Ladouce (1988, pp. 686, 690).
64. Duplaix (1988, p. 681).
65. Wise (1976, pp. 35, 177, 240); Brooks (1950).
66. Chamerovzow (1850).
67. Kemasang (1982, p. 68). Quotes within the quote are from Twan Djie Liem.
68. Chalk and Jonassohn (1990, pp. 190-191).
69. Ibid., pp. 179-80.
70. Hoig (1961); Russell (1973, p. 45).
71. Russell (1973, pp. 45-46).
72. Madsen (1985, pp. 199-200).
73. Russell (1973, pp. 43, 61-2).
74. Chalk and Jonassohn (1990, p. 199).
75. Encyclopædia Britannica (1973, Vol. 5, p. 451); Charny (1982, p. 11).
76. From table 3A.2, line 209.
77. Encyclopædia Britannica (1973, Vol. 12, p. 54).
78. Stannard (1992, p. 342n.23; from a paper by Henry F. Dobyns reassessing his published lower figures).
79.See, for example, Ubelaker (1992) and White (1993).
80. Whitmore (1992, p. 2). This high is from Henry F. Dobyns.
81. Lancaster (1990, p. 437).
82. Stannard (1992, p. 95; 1992a, p. 431).
83. For a "well-documented" case of an attempt by the British to purposely spread disease to the Indians in order to exterminate them, see Chalk and Jonassohn (1990, p. 177).
84. Stannard (1992).
85. Personal communication.
86. Wertham (1962, p. 140).
87. Ryan (1981, p. 174).
88. Broome (1982, pp. 11, 51).
89. Quoted in Reynolds (1972, p. 22).
90. Durant (1954, p. 461).
91. Kelley (1974, pp. 199-200); Paris (1961, p. 4; Soman (1974, pp. vii-viii) gives a figure of 2,000 killed, but this probably was only for Paris. According to Durant (1961, p. 352), the estimates vary from 5,000 to 30,000.
92. Greene (1895, p. 96).
93. Quoted in Boyajian (1972, p. 83).
94. Lang (1981, pp. 8-10); Boyajian (1972, p. 83); Libaridian (1987, p. 229n11); Hovannisian (1986, p. 25).
95. Oldenbourg (1961, pp. 141, 149, 361, 394).
96. Davies (1981, p. 244).
97. Paris (1961, p. 4). The Encyclopædia Britannica (1973, Vol. 12, p. 272) claims that Torquemada had only 2,000 heretics burned to death.
98. Durant (1957, p. 216).
99. Ibid., pp. 215.
100. Davies (1981, p. 249).
101. Lecky (1925, pp. 41-2).
102. Burns and Ralph (1955, Vol. 2, pp. 602-604).
103. Hirsch and Smith (1991, p. 402).
104. Heinsohn and Steiger (1985, p. 144).
105. Davies (1981, pp. 146). Davies believes this figure an exaggeration.
106. Ibid., p. 150.
107. Ibid., pp. 217-218.
108. Ibid., pp. 218-219.
109. Ibid., p. 261-262.
111. Ibid., p. 21.
112. Ibid., p. 76.
114. Ibid., p. 191-192.
115. From Statistics of Democide.
116. Breiner (1990, pp. 49-50).
117. Ibid., pp. 50-51.
119. Ibid., p. 50.
120. Ibid., p. 8.
121. Davies (1981, p. 78).
122. In many cultures infanticide was the custom and government simply observed it. Should this then be treated as democide? I already have treated as democide the murder of POWs, the massacre of the inhabitants of a captured city, the killing of slaves, and the sacrifice of unwilling subjects, even though in many places and times these have also been customary. The issue is whether the definition of democide is wholly descriptive or in part, at least, moral. I mean it here to be descriptive, in that when the described conditions exist (government intentionality, the killing of disarmed subjects, etc.), then democide has occurred. This is no statement of the morality of the act at the time in the eyes of that culture or perpetrators. Indeed, many cultures may have deemed this democide highly moral, as for sacrifice. It is to say, however, that since I believe democide in any of its aspects to be a crime against humanity, that were such acts in the past, such as systematic government aided and abetted sacrifice, to be committed today, I would consider it immoral, a crime demanding action of the international community to stop it and to sanction their leaders.
123. Bowers (1974, p. 135).
124. Pinheiro (1991, p. 182).
125. Johnson (1991b, p. 250).
126. Durant (1950, p. 599).
127. Payne (1973, p. 66). See also Durant (1954, p. 463).
128. Quoted in Severy (1987, p. 573).
129. Durant (1961, p. 563).
130. Rummel (1990, table 1B, line 113).
131. Davies (1981, p. 94).
132. Quoted in Walter (1969, p. 134).
133. See Statistics of Democide.
134. Durant (1957, p. 64).
135. Eckhardt and Köhler (1980, p. 368).
136. Eckhardt (1991, p. 7).