Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: serialised in quotes XXXIX: Pax Atomica. We live in an era of unprecedented peace

Most people don’t appreciate just how peaceful an era we live in.

The figures for 2002 are even more surprising. Out of 57 million dead, only 172,000 people died in war and 569,000 died of violent crime (a total of 741,000 victims of human violence). In contrast, 873,000 people committed suicide.

The decline of violence is due largely to the rise of the state.

But campaigns of conquest like those of the Romans, Mongols and Ottomans cannot take place today anywhere in the world. Since 1945, no independent country recognised by the UN has been conquered and wiped off the map.

Wars are no longer the norm.

There have been periods of relative calm before, as, for example, in Europe between 1871 and 1914, and they always ended badly. But this time it is different. For real peace is not the mere absence of war. Real peace is the implausibility of war.

the price of war has gone up dramatically. The Nobel Peace Prize to end all peace prizes should have been given to Robert Oppenheimer and his fellow architects of the atomic bomb. Nuclear weapons have turned war between superpowers into collective suicide, and made it impossible to seek world domination by force of arms.

While the price of war soared, its profits declined.

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