Below are the six deadliest wars in history. Of the six, it is no surprise that World Wars I and II are on the list. However, more surprisingly, three of the top five were civil wars in China. Although the cost of human life by its own means on such a vast scale is truly tragic, it is worth noting that the death toll caused by the deadliest disease in history killed more people in the 20th century than these six wars combined.

 WWI (1914-1918 – high end estimate includes Spanish flu deaths)

Deaths: 15-65 million (0.8%-3.6% of world)

Scope: Worldwide

World War I

World War I was a major war centered in Europe. All of the world’s great powers were involved, assembled into two opposing alliances: The Allies and the Central Powers. One of the reasons so many combatants were killed in the war was because of the great technological advances in weaponry, but without the corresponding advances in mobility.

 Taiping RebellionTaiping Rebellion (1851-1864)

Deaths: 20-30 million (1.6% - 2.1%)

Scope: China


In 1850 a widespread civil war broke out in southern China, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who claiming to have received visions, said he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. Most of the 20+ million deaths were civilians.

 Qing Dynasty conquest f the Ming Dynasty (1616-1662)

Deaths: 25 million (4.8%)

Scope: China

The Qing, or Manchu, Dynasty, was the last dynasty of China. They ruled from 1644 to 1912, when they were replaced by communist Republic of China.

 Mongol Conquests (1207-1472)

Mongol ConquestDeaths: 30,000,000 – 100,000,000 (7.5% - 17.1%)

Scope: Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East

The Mongolian empire began in the Central Asian steppes, but eventually stretched from Eastern Europe to the Sea of Japan, covering Siberia in the north and extended south into Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East. At its greatest it was the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world, spanning 6,000 miles and covering 22% of the Earth’s total land area.

 An Shi Rebellion (756-763)

Deaths: 33,000,000 – 36,000,000 (14% - 15.3%)

Scope: China

During the Tang Dynasty, An Lushan, an ex-Tang general, declared himself emperor, creating a rival Yan Dynasty in Northern China.

 Mussolini and HitlerWorld War II (1939-1945)

Deaths: 55,000,000 – 72,000,000 (1.7%-3.1%)

Scope: Worldwide

World War II was a global military conflict which involved most of the world’s nations, including all of the great powers. World War II was the most wide-spread war in history (over 100 million soldiers), and is also marked by the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare.