The Battle Over Violence

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 829-830
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6083.829

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With its world wars, genocides, and innumerable revolutions and civil wars, the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. World War II alone left some 60 million dead—2.5% of the world's population, or the total number of people who lived in Europe during the Middle Ages. Yet a group of researchers argues that complex industrialized societies, even Nazi Germany or Stalin's Russia, are far safer places to live than among smaller groups of hunter-gatherers or farmers, in which tribal feuds and homicide typically felled more than 10% of the population.