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Decline in Violence Worldwide

“Today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence,” [Stephen] Pinker writes, and he describes this decline in violence as possibly “the most important thing that has ever happened in human history.”

He acknowledges: “In a century that began with 9/11, Iraq, and Darfur, the claim that we are living in an unusually peaceful time may strike you as somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene.”

Still, even in a 20th century notorious for world war and genocide, only around 3 percent of humans died from such man-made catastrophes. In contrast, a study of Native-American skeletons from hunter-gather societies found that some 13 percent had died of trauma. And in the 17th century, the Thirty Years’ War reduced Germany’s population by as much as one-third.

Wars make headlines, but there are fewer conflicts today, and they typically don’t kill as many people....

Look also at homicide rates, which are now far lower than in previous centuries. The murder rate in Britain seems to have fallen by more than 90 percent since the 14th century.

- Nicholas Kristof, writing of Steven Pinker's 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, in "Are We Getting Nicer?" in the New York Times, November 23, 2011.

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