If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:5:47

Video transcript

as you might imagine world war 1 was one of the bloodiest events in frankly all of human history and I was thinking about putting some pictures here and I encourage you to do a web search for for actual photographs from Rober one of mass graves and people starving and and and soldiers dead in trenches and it'll will make you feel ill and and it's probably a good thing to look for those images because it will remind you how disgusting and gross and of crazy wars can be it sometimes we abstract it when we look at it in hindsight and we just talk about the numbers but World War one was gruesome especially because this was the first time that industrialized weapons were really put to use in a war context so there was far more bloodshed than I think any of the fighting powers actually believed there would be but just to put things into numbers and these are huge numbers and these are frankly abstract numbers numbers that are hard for us to comprehend and we don't know the exact numbers as you can imagine there's it's not easy to take a census the military's have a better count of who might have been killed or who might be missing but the civilian casualties are almost impossible to count you have people who are inadvertently killed by a bomb you have people who are dying of starvation who are dying due to famine so these are very hard numbers to count but there is some consensus on the rough estimates on the total casualties in World War one and in particular I'm going to focus here on the debts when people talk about casualties that often will also talk about injured but just the debts alone the estimates I've seen and I encourage you to look up your own and try to figure out what what consensus you could get to but the estimates I've seen have on the order of 16 million million deaths during or due to World War one and if we were to break down those debts we have eight to ten million in the military so directly military these are debts of soldiers so this is the military and it was roughly based on the accounts that I've seen about sixty percent of these of these debts were amongst the on tante and about 40 percent were amongst the central powers but neither case we're talking about millions on either side of World War one and then the rest if we're talking on the order of about six to seven million worth civilians six to seven million civilians and the estimates I've seen were about a million-plus that were directly due to military action so this is military action impacting civilians and this was disproportionately felt on the on the side of the on tante on the side of the Allies and that's if you look at where especially the Western Front was fought it becomes clear and also much of where the Eastern Front was fought it was fought the Eastern Front a lot of it was fought on Russian land or what was controlled by the Russian Empire at the time and on the Western Front much of the or most of the battle was in France and in Belgium and also in Italy that was also where you had a significant amount of the battle actually going on so this is why the the the Allies the aunt aunt felt a disproportionate number of the Allied of the civilian that's directly due to military casualties but then on top of that the rest of the civilian town this is what's frankly very hard to get an exact number on this would be due to famine starvation disease disease we've talked before about the the blockade of the Central Powers you had a major starve you had definitely people not being able to kind of eat properly you had the Spanish flu I mean it was just an all-around ugly situation and then to make matters worse and this is what kind of the history books often forget you often had an explicit extermination of people's trying to happen during World War one in fact the the I guess most notable but often forgotten was the Armenian Genocide so there was actually in a an explicit campaign on the part of the on the part of the Ottomans and this actually started before World War one but it kind of hit full pace during World War one where one - I've seen estimates of 1 million to one and a half million Armenians were systematically I mean I'm talking about men women children systematically killed by the Ottoman government so war is ugly and it brings out the worst in people and you see it just from these numbers and just to give a context of all this is and it you know it it's it's it's it's very easy for us to just abstract these things but I really wanted to sit in how horrible this was but just to kind of bring it all into into into focus this right here is a passage from the Atlantic Monthly volume 129 that was published in 1922 and it's a passage on Joseph Tamil tees book Joseph Tamil tea was the private secretary was now called the chief of staff of President Woodrow Wilson and so this is about his account of of being with Woodrow Wilson after the war was declared in World War one and it's fascinating because it's it applies frankly to to most Wars or all Wars so the war president and the war at the time of delivering his far echoed war message in April 1917 the president was cheered by dense multitudes thronging the streets as he passed from the White House to the Capitol and back again this is from tumult EES that's that's Woodrow Wilson's chief of staff or was called private secretary then this is from Tamil T's own description of the return for a while he and we're talking about Woodrow Wilson for a while he sat silent and pale in the Cabinet Room at last he said think what it was they were applauding my message today was a message of death for our young men how strange it seems to applaud that