Top 10 Bloodiest Wars Ever

Throughout history, humankind has fought for land, power, religion, honor, freedom and anything else that sparked a disagreement. While borders have changed and power has shifted, one thing has remained constant; in war, people die. The currency of battle is human life and leaders are often willing to spend until they either win or have nothing left. The question then arises which wars have been the bloodiest. This list will look at the ten bloodiest wars in history. It will answer the questions of when and why they were fought and by whom.

10. Napoleonic Wars

Mostly Europe, 1804-1815, Death Toll: 5 million, Conquest

The French Revolution 1789–1799 was a period of tumult for France and Europe in general. The old ways were changing. The monarchy that had ruled France collapsed and Napoleon Bonaparte was named First Consul in 1799. Because the overthrow of the French monarchy was seen as a threat to the other European monarchies, they entered into a series of conflicts with France and Napoleon, who had proclaimed himself Emperor in 1804. The Napoleonic Wars were an attempt by the major powers in Europe to bring down the revolutionary government in France and restore the monarchy. By the time they were over, the Holy Roman Empire had been dissolved, the Spanish Empire weakened, and Britain had emerged as a world power. In one of the most famous battles in history, Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo on June 18, 1815. This came after his disastrous march into Russia in 1812. By the end of the wars, the body count was staggering. 2,500,000 military personnel in Europe and 1,000,000 civilians were killed in either Europe or France’s overseas colonies. While the death tolls are disputed, the numbers listed above are generally accepted as accurate.

9. Russian Civil War

Russia, 1917-1921, Death Toll: 7.5 millions, Revolutionary Civil War

Russia had paid a heavy toll in human life during the Napoleonic Wars but it was nothing compared to the bloodshed in its own civil war. Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar abdicated his throne after the February Revolution of 1917. Then on July 16 or 17, 1918, Bolsheviks executed the Tsar and his entire family. The Russian Civil War like the Napoleonic Wars was really a series of battles that made up the Russian Revolution. At the end of the war approximately 20,000,000 people had died. The civil war itself cost 15,000,000 lives, including at least 1,500,000 soldiers who died in battle. 250,000 people were executed as enemies if the people. While others were massacred by factions wanting control, then disease and starvation set in with devastating effect. Typhus killed 3,000,000 in 1920. The number that were killed in battles or died later is debatable and some sources give figures between 5 and 9 million. When the war related death toll, including those who died because the country had been ravaged, is added, the number soars. By 1921, Russia itself was near ruin but Bolsheviks had emerged as the winners and started building socialist society only to be later suppressed by Stalin.

8. Muslim Rebellion

China, 1862-1877, Death Toll: 10 million, Religious war


The Muslim Rebellion also called the Dungan Revolt and the Hui Minorities’ War was a religious war in 19th-century China. It was really an uprising by Muslims in China’s Shaanxi, Gansu, Xinjiang, and Ningxia provinces. Like both the Napoleonic Wars and the Russian Civil War, this was really a series of events. In this case, there were ten uprisings, intended to establish a Muslim emirate along the Yellow River in China. The uprisings were ultimately unsuccessful, and depleted the Muslim population in China. It has been estimated that approximately twelve million people died in the war. One devastating fact is the near destruction of the Hui people. Before the war the Hui, who were Muslims, had a striving population. After the war their numbers had been reduced nearly 91%. While many fled into Russia, many more died in the war. As opposed to starting an empire, the Hui people of China nearly succeeded in destroying themselves.

7. Conquest of Timur

Asia, 1369-1405, Death Toll: 17 millions, Conquest


The Hui people of China may have sought their own emirate but Timur a 14th century conqueror in Central and Western Asia wanted one thing: power. He is often described as a man of contradictions. He loved art on one hand and laid waste to whole cities on the other. Timur’s name means iron and he lived up to it in the way he waged war and the number of lives it cost. He founded the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty in Central Asia, which led to his descendants founding the Mughal Empire in India, which survived until mid 1800. Among his bloodiest exploits was the massacre of 100,000 in Delhi and 90,000 in Baghdad. Before his wars of conquest were over an estimated 15,000,000 had been killed.

6. World War I

Global, 1914-1918, Death Toll: 10 million, Global war


On June 28, 1914 a Yougoslav nationalist, named Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and triggered the war known as The Great War. There were long-standing problems, primarily imperialistic policies at the root of the conflict. Alliances that had been formed between the major world powers came into play and within weeks, the world was at war. Because these countries had colonies, which were also drawn in, the war was indeed global. The Allies or Entente Powers as they were called in WWI and the Central Powers declared war on each other. The Entente included the United Kingdom, France, the Russian Empire, Belgium, Serbia, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, Portugal, Spain, and the United States. The Central powers were the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Although historians readily admit that the number of deaths is not accurate, the total death toll is often listed as high as 16 million. This number includes 5.7 million military deaths for the Entente and 4 million for the Central Powers. When civilians are added the numbers jump to 16 million dead and 21 million wounded. The war ended on Armistice Day November 11, 1918, when Germany surrendered. WWI resulted in two major dynasties, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires ceasing to exist and the Soviet Union emerging from the Russian Empire. Europe was changed forever and the seeds of what would become World War II were sown.

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