Wars are as old as mankind itself. The earliest recorded evidence of a war belongs to the Mesolithic cemetery Site 117, which has been determined to be approximately 14,000 years old. Wars have occurred over much of the globe, causing deaths of hundreds of millions of people. And though these devastating events are usually meant to be fought between nations’ armies, the violence often spills into the civilian realm resulting in the deaths of countless innocent lives (which is why the total numbers of war casualties are so large and heartbreaking). Apart from direct battle results, the statistics from the deadliest wars in human history also include war-related deaths caused by side effects such as induced epidemics, diseases, famines, atrocities, genocides etc. In order to bring awareness as to the devastating impacts of wars, we have compiled a list ranking the 25 deadliest wars in human history. No matter what caused the conflicts, one thing is for sure – these wars cannot be considered anything but absolutely horrifying human tragedies that should have never happened. Let’s hope that by remembering our past, we are not doomed to repeat it.
Qing Conquest of the Ming (death toll: 25 million)
Fought between 1618 – 1683, the Qing conquest of the Ming (also known as the Ming–Qing transition) was a period of conflict between the Qing dynasty (a Chinese dynasty ruling contemporary Northeastern China) and the Ming dynasty (a Chinese dynasty ruling the south of the country). The war that eventually resulted in the fall of the Mings caused death of about 25 million people.
Second Sino-Japanese War (death toll: 25 – 30 million)
Fought between 1937 and 1945, the Second Sino-Japanese War was an armed conflict between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (1941), the war merged into the World War II as a major front later known as the Pacific War. The Second Sino-Japanese War was the largest Asian war in the 20th century, accounting for the majority of casualties in the Pacific War with up to 25 million Chinese civilians and over 4 million Chinese and Japanese military personnel dying from war-related violence, famine, and other causes.
Three Kingdom War (death toll: 36 – 40 million)
The Three Kingdom War was a series of armed conflicts in ancient China (AD 220–280). In the war, three states – Wei, Shu and Wu vied for power in the country, trying to unite the nations and take control over it. One of the bloodiest periods in Chinese history, the Three Kingdom era was marked by a number of brutal battles that might have led to death of up to 40 million people.
Mongol Conquest (death toll: 40 – 70 million)
Mongol invasions and conquests progressed throughout the 13th century, resulting in the vast Mongol Empire, which, by 1300, covered much of Asia and Eastern Europe. Historians regard the Mongol raids and invasions as some of the deadliest conflicts in human history. In addition, they brought the bubonic plague along with them, spreading it across much of Asia and Europe and helping cause the massive loss of life in the Black Death. The total death toll related to the conquest is estimated at 40 to 70 million.
World War II (death toll: 60 – 85 million)
Fought between 1939 and 1845, World War II was a global war that involved the vast majority of the world’s nations including all of the great powers. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust and the strategic bombing of industrial and population centers, it resulted in an estimated 60 million to 85 million fatalities, which made the World War II the deadliest conflict in human history.