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Handsomely illustrated with striking, sometimes shocking, often poignant images, this book combines the depictions of momentous events with fascinating character portraits and arresting eyewitness accounts to create an absorbing, multifaceted chronicle of a sobering all too human legacy.
Though it simmers ceaselessly beneath the surface of society, violence is, for the most part, held in check by conscience and will, laws and social conventions. Even in war, it is constrained to some extent by human rights treaties, codes of honor, and traditional rules of engagement. Every once in a while, however, it erupts uncontrollably, unleashing atrocities that are almost beyond our comprehension.
World's Bloodiest History recounts some of the most horrifying episodes of the past, from ancient times to our own, in searing detail, while rigorously investigating their causes-from religious fanaticism and ethnic rivalry to political power struggles and hunger for vengeance-and their consequences. It explores, for example, what led Romans in 146 BCE to abandon their typically civilized policy to co-opt conquered peoples and instead raze the city of Carthage to the ground and slaughter thousands of its inhabitants. It questions what drove the U. S. Militia, in Colorado in the winter of 1864, to gun down and bludgeon to death and then barbarically mutilate 150 Cheyenne (two-thirds of which were women and children) and how this changed the course of North American history. It strives to understand why, in 1994, ethnic Hutu villagers in Rwanda abruptly tured on their Tutsi neighbors and colleagues, massacring eight hundred thousand of them, and why the international community did nothing to stop them.
Engrossing in their descriptions of diverse historical periods and cultures, intriguing in their insights into human impulses and motivations, perplexing in their implications, these are stories that lead us to reflect on our own character and strength of will, and to question, at the most basic levels, what it means to be human.
Joseph Cummins is the author of The World's Bloodiest History, War Chronicles: From Chariots to Flintlocks, War Chronicles: From Flintlocks to Machine Guns, History's Great Untold Stories, and Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises in U.S. Presidential Campaigns. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey.