Log out
My profile and settings
My bookmarks
Comment history
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
This verification token has expired.
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
Your account has been deactivated. Sign in to re-activate your account.
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
Back to profile
Comment Items
You have not left any comments yet.
you replied to a comment:
Saved Posts
You haven’t bookmarked any posts yet.

Mosquitoes don’t practice social distancing. They don’t wear masks, either.

Read more
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Sign up
Log out
Personal Information
This email is already registered
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Email and Notification Settings
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Send me Gates Notes survey emails
Send me the weekly Top of Mind newsletter
Email me comment notifications
On-screen comment notifications
Select interests to personalize your profile and experience on Gates Notes.
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Account Deactivation
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process.
If you would like to permanently delete your Gates Notes account and remove it’s content, please send us a request here.

Charting the Decline of Violence

Better Angels of Our Nature in graphs & numbers

In his book, Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker shows how violence is declining, using data and charts. Here’s a look at some of the data from the book.


In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker shows with data and charts how violence is declining. Here’s a look at some of the data from the book.

Between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century, European countries saw a tenfold-to-fiftyfold decline in their rates of homicide.

"Better Angels of our Nature: Europe less violent"

While the 20th century certainly had more violent deaths than earlier ones, it also had more people. World War II was certainly the worst thing that happened in human history in terms of absolute number of people killed. It’s not clear whether it was the worst in terms of the proportion of the population that was killed, because there were atrocities in previous generations that proportionately were comparable – the European Wars of Religion, the Mongol Invasions, to say nothing of tribal warfare that could kill a much larger percentage of the population than died in World War II.

"Better Angels of our Nature: Modern Warfare"

The rates of violence did a U-turn in the wrong direction in the 1960s. After centuries of violence going down, in the 1960s it went back up. The rebounding of violence in the 1960s defied every expectation. The decade was a time of unprecedented economic growth, nearly full employment, historical racial progress, and the blossoming of government social programs.

"Better Angels of our Nature: Violence in the 1960s"

Use of the terms civil rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, gay rights, and animal rights in English-language books, 1948-2000. These staggered rises tell a story. Each of the movements took note of the success of its predecessors and adopted some of the tactics, rhetoric, and most significantly, moral rationale. The Rights Revolutions have brought us measurable and substantial declines in many categories of violence.

"Better Angels of our Nature: Writing on Rights"

Violence in many ways has plunged over the course of history. The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence. For centuries, wife-beating was considered a normal part of marriage. In a 1995 survey more than 80 percent of the respondents deemed domestic violence a “very important social and legal issue”, 87 percent believed that intervention is necessary when a man hits his wife even if she is not injured, and 99 percent believe that legal intervention is necessary if a man injures his wife. Surveys that asked the same questions in different decades show striking changes.

"Better Angels of our Nature: Domestive Violence"

From 1990 to 2007 the rate of physical abuse of children fell by half. During this time the rate of sexual abuse, and the incidence of violent crimes against children such as assault, robbery, and rape, also fell by a third to two-thirds. Over the past two decades the lives of children and adolescents improved in just about every way you can measure. They were also less likely to run away, to get pregnant, to get into trouble with the law, and to kill themselves.

"Better Angels of our Nature: Violence against children"