Mark Levene - Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?
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It has become almost a platitude, a statistical one at that: 187 million is the figure, the now more or less accepted wisdom for the numberof human beings killed as a result of political violence—Zbigniew Brzezinski uses the unlovely term megadeaths—in this, our bloody
century.1 More killing than at any other time in history. And yet at the
end of the twentieth century its relentlessness, as it passes across the
television screens of those of us seemingly blessed with immunity from
its catastrophic reality and consequences, continues to daze and bewilder.
For the historian, him or herself inured to centuries if not millennia
of mass atrocity, this picture of a special era of death and destruction
invites, indeed demands further probing and analysis. Is “the
Twentieth Century Book of the Dead” really so very different in scope
or scale from previous ones?2 It has been argued that the effects of the
Taiping and other rebellions in China reduced its population from 410
million in 1850 to 350 million in 1873.3 In southern Africa a couple
of decades earlier, the emergence of Shaka’s Zulu nation and the ensuing
Mfecane or “great crushing” produced equally horrendous results
relative to the population of the region..........
marklevene.pdf (123 KB)