Tristram Hunt on The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred by Niall Ferguson, in The Guardian:
His thesis is clear: what makes the 20th century remarkable is its exceptional violence. “The hundred years after 1900 were without question the bloodiest century in history, far more violent in relative as well as absolute terms than any previous era.” Why? Well, not for the old textbook explanations of economic crises, class warfare, nationalism or ideological fervour. Rather, in good historical fashion, for three new reasons.
According to Ferguson, the 20th-century bloodbath was down to the dreadful concatenation of ethnic conflict, economic volatility and empires in decline. Despite genetic advances that revealed man’s essential biological similarities, the 1900s saw wave upon wave of ethnic strife thanks (pace Richard Dawkins) to a race “meme” entering public discourse. Across the world, the idea of biologically distinct races took hold of the 20th century mindset to deadly effect.