In modern history, wars have claimed the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Confined to one conflict, no other death toll was more devastating than that of World War ll. Historians are at odds as to the total number of people that lost their lives, but an upper estimate of 85 million puts it significantly ahead of any other wars or conquests in the period 1492-2005. The Spanish and Portuguese Conquest of the Americas is thought to have led to the death of 55 million people, making it the second most deadly.
When we take into consideration the length of time that the conflicts were fought over though, we get a different picture, revealing the wars with the highest annual death tolls. World War ll had an average of 14.17 million deaths per year, compared to 0.51 million for the much longer Iberian Conquest. As our infographic shows, using this measure, World War l moves into second place with its 15 million deaths over 4 years resulting in an annual average of 3.75 million. The 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War led to the deaths of 3 million people, qualifying it for third on this scale.