Population of the World In Millions
Not the most solid grounds, I'll grant you.
One contender for worst century has to be the Seventeenth (the1600s). The30 Years War was the bloodiest single conflict in Europe until WorldWar One. Russia began the century in bloody chaos. The Manchu conquestof China wascertainly responsible for one the top population collapses in EastAsia, whilethe Mughal invasion of South India caused the highest alledged bodycount inSouth Asian history. Meanwhile, the collapse of the Native Americanpopulationbottomed out, and the Slave Trade was accelerating. All this wasclobbering aworld with a population only a fifth that of the world in the middle oftheTwentieth Century.
Here are just a few of the estimates that are kicking around:
Consider the Powhatans of Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, Stannardcitesestimates that the population was 100,000 before contact. In the sameparagraph, he states that European depredations and disease had reducedthispopulation to a mere 14,000 by the time the English settled Jamestownin 1607. Now, come on; should we really blame the English for 86,000deaths that occuredbefore they even arrived? Sure, he hints at pre-Jamestown"depredations",but he doesn't actually list any. As far as I can tell, the handful ofEuropeanventures into the Chesapeake region before 1607 were too small to domuchdepredating, and in what conflicts there were, the Europeans often gotthe worstof it. [see and and]
Twentieth Century Atlas - Historical Body Count
I've graphed the estimates chronlogically to show that the passageof timeand the gathering of more information is still not leading toward aconsensus. Over the past 75 years, estimates have bounced around wildlyand ended up rightback where they started -- around 40 million.
China's Rise, America's Fall, by Ron Unz - The Unz Review
I've also graphed the population of Europe in 1500 because this ismagicnumber to which many of the estimates aspire. Native American historyistraditionally treated as marginal -- a handful of primitive kingdomsthat wereeasily overwhelmed by the most dynamic civilization on Earth -- but ifit couldsomehow be proven that the Americas had even more people than Europe,thenhistory would be turned upside down. The European conquest could betreated asthe tail wagging the dog, like the Barbarian invasions of Rome, a smallfringeof savages decending on the civilized world, wiping out or enslavingthe bulk ofhumanity.