Worst Times to be Alive in Human History

Worst Times to be Alive in Human History

Worst Times to be Alive in Human History
Image Credits: Jacobin

Nowadays, the vast majority of us have relatively quiet and peaceful lives. Though some still live in tumultuous regions, most would be unable to imagine the hellscapes witnessed by our ancestors. The list of times (from human history) that can be classified as the worst ever is virtually inexhaustible. Some of the most horrible of these times are listed below.

1992 – 1996: The Siege of Sarajevo

The Siege of Sarajevo - Worst Times

Sieges are generally some of the worst times to be alive. The longest siege (modern history) of the national capital was no exception as Sarajevo was besieged for nearly 4 years. Serbs besieged the city and its denizens were subjected to near-constant shelling.

As a result, the city was quickly transformed into a monstrous refugee camp as homes were being destroyed. Strangers were forced to live in shared spaces lacking all amenities. Nearly 14 thousand people perished due to different reasons. Many were killed by exposure to the cold due to fuel shortages. Snipers using children as target practice added to the horror of the situation.

1918 – 1919: The Spanish Flu

The Spanish Flu - Worst Times

The early 20th century was, undoubtedly, one of the worst times in human history. Bloody rebellions and revolutions were taking the world over. If that was not enough, we also had the 1st World War. However, the greatest cause of death during this period was the Spanish flu.

It is estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population at its peak. Similarly, this fatal flu killed 20-50 million people. Many died within hours of getting infected. Little could be done to save them with the rudimentary medical technology of that time.

1618 – 1648: The Thirty Years’ War

The Thirty Years’ War - Worst Times

The Thirty Years’ War was possibly the most devastating of all European conflicts. It was far deadlier than the Second World War; and also the Black Death. This holds true if the proportion of the European population that died is considered. It was one of the most lethal events in human history, causing about eight million casualties.  

The conflict had its roots in the unrest caused by the Protestant Reformation. Most of the major powers were involved and the use of mercenary armies was common. Due to this, smaller towns and villages were pillaged regularly. With the war still raging on, Europe found itself in the grips of famine and disease.

1944: Firebombing Raids during WWII

Firebombing Raids during WWII

Multiple atrocities were committed during the Second War, by all sides. The bombing of civilian areas was probably the cruelest of them all. The atomic bombings are of course the most well-known, but the firebombing of Tokyo was possibly more lethal. According to an estimate, the death count of this firebombing is greater than both the atomic bombings combined.

Military-grade incendiaries were unleashed upon the populace in 1944. Entire neighborhoods were engulfed by flames and people’s charred remains littered the streets. Those who were not yet dead were terrorized by the incessant drone of bombers. Indisputably, it was one of the worst times to be alive in a generally dark period of human history. Up to 100,000 civilians were burnt to death in a single night and over a million were maimed.

1467 – 1600: The Sengoku Period

The Sengoku Period

The Sengoku period was certainly one of the worst times in human history, at least for the Japanese. With the decline of the power of the central authority of the shogun, anarchy reigned for over a hundred years. Countless warlords vied against each other in a bid to secure as much land as possible.

Borders were ever-changing in this age of perpetual war. Many found themselves lost in vast swathes of land with no single ruling authority. Towns and villages were subject to repeated raids, as the warlords sought to supply their armies. The period was noteworthy for its brutality and general disregard for human life.

The Year 536

The Year 536

536 AD was the darkest year in human history, in all senses of the word. There were multiple large volcanic eruptions around that time, which pumped out sufficient ash to block out the sun. This caused one of the worst global famines humanity has ever experienced. It is hardly surprising that multiple empires crumbled around this time.

We have already noted how a collapse in the central government led to untold suffering in Japan. On this occasion, it occurred on a global scale. The ‘foggy eclipse of the Sun’, as it was described then, was visible from all over the world. It made the situation even more terrifying. There can be little doubt that the year 536 was one of the worst times to be alive.

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