"The most peaceful time in our species' existence"

The Visual History of the Rise of Political Freedom and
the Decrease in Violence


All visualisations - and many more - can be found on my website 'Our World in Data'

www.OurWorldInData.org
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Archeological studies show that societies in the past were very violent indeed. The share of people killed by other people was often more 10%.

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In this chart I have included all available archeological evidence that I could find.
You can find the (long) list of data sources by clicking on the chart.

Ethnographic evidence confirms that violence is very common in nonstate societies and drastically higher than in modern state societies.

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In this chart I have included all available ethnographic evidence that I could find.
You can find the (long) list of data sources by clicking on the chart.

The historical record of homicide rates in Europe shows that modern levels of violence
were only arrived at after a long decline.

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Homicide rates across the world - clicking on any visualisation refers you to the interactive version.

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A homicide rate of 1 means that in a city of 1 million people there are on average 10 murders a year.

In these barcharts we compare rates of violence - rather than shares of violent deaths.
Again, ethnographic studies show that violence in nonstate societies was much higher than in modern state societies.

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"Violence has been in decline over long stretches of time", says Harvard professor Steven Pinker, "and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence"

(Source for the quote)

This is a long-term view on wars and genocides. The past was not peaceful.

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But why is violence declining?

One important change is the improving literacy and education...

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...as education goes together with increasing political freedom.

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The chart shows the correlation - A study that shows a causal link between education and democratisation is: Wolfgang Lutz, Crespo Cuaresma, and Abbasi-Shavazi (2009) - Demography, Education and Democracy: Global Trends and the Case of Iran - Link to free version.

And history shows that democratic governments - the result of
political liberation - are much less likely to engage in wars with each other.




This is referred to as the Democratic Peace Theory and a good statistical analysis of the theory is Oneal and Russett (1999) - The Kantian Peace: The Pacific Benefits of Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885-1992

And more and more countries are becoming democratic.

Just in 1980 the world looked like this: Only few countries were democratic.

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The measures are from the Polity IV data set - this source provides a detailed explanation for the assessment of each country.

This has changed: After the breakdown of the Soviet Union the world looked like this.

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Click on the map to see the interactive version.

And this is the latest data for 2012.

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Click on the map to see the interactive version.

Over the course of the last century the number of people living in democratic regimes increased.

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At the beginning of the 20th century just over 10% of the world population lived in democratic countries - now it is more than 50%.

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And as the Theory of Democratic Peace predicted, we observe a decline of war deaths.

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Education is improving around the world - here shown by the difference in literacy between the young and the old generation.
Based on the evidence shown in this presentation one might be optimistic about the continuing rise of political freedom and decline of violence around the world.

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This presentation is part of a 4-part series:

  1. The Visual History of Improving Health around the World
  2. The Visual History of the Rise of Political Freedom and Decrease in Violence
  3. Increasing Prosperity, Declining Poverty, and Decreasing World Income Inequality
  4. The Visual History of Decreasing World Hunger and Improving Food Provision



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Go to the next presentation in this series:

Increasing Prosperity, Declining Poverty, and Decreasing World Income Inequality

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