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Quiz about Conquest War Famine and Death
Quiz about Conquest War Famine and Death

Conquest, War, Famine and Death Quiz

Aptly titled after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this quiz touches upon some human-made disasters that severely impacted the total population of a country, region, or even the whole world. Can you locate these tragic events on a map?

A label quiz by LadyNym. Estimated time: 3 mins.
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3 mins
Label Quiz
Quiz #
Jul 08 24
# Qns
Avg Score
8 / 10
Last 3 plays: PDAZ (7/10), Zippy826 (10/10), BarbaraMcI (6/10).
Albigensian Crusade Thirty Years' War Congo Free State Spanish colonization Atlantic slave trade Famines under British rule (1765-1947) Mongol invasions and conquests Khmer Rouge regime Great Leap Forward Holodomor
* Drag / drop or click on the choices above to move them to the answer list.

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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. Great Leap Forward

China enjoys the rather unenviable distinction of topping the lists of disasters, both natural and human-made, with the highest death tolls. In terms of human-made disasters, very few other events in history boast a higher death toll than the Great Chinese Famine of 1958-1962, caused by the policies of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward, an economic and social campaign meant to transform China from a mostly agrarian economy, and one of the world's poorest countries, into a fully developed, industrialized society. Dismissive of any expert advice, Mao expected this progress to happen in no more than a few decades.

The introduction of agricultural collectivization put huge pressure on farmers to produce grain that was expected to support urban areas as well as the farmers themselves. This disrupted traditional farming practices that had worked reasonably well in the past, with an extremely negative impact on agricultural productivity. In addition, millions of peasants were forced to leave the fields to work in heavy industry, leading to labour shortages. This, compounded by adverse weather conditions and the proliferation of crop-eating insects due to the ill-advised destruction of sparrows, caused severe food shortages at a time when food demand was increasing. To make matters worse, much of the grain harvest was reserved for export to other countries. In the ensuing famine, millions of people died - the estimates ranging from 15 million to a staggering 55 million. According to various sources, people resorted to eating tree bark, coal and clay, and cannibalism is believed to have been a frequent occurrence.

The Chinese authorities initially tried to cover up or minimize the tragedy, but already in 1962 then-President Liu Shaoqi had to admit that human mistakes, rather than natural disasters, were the main culprits. In 1981, the Chinese Communist Party officially stated that the Great Leap Forward had been the root cause of the famine.
2. Khmer Rouge regime

In a century rife with all kinds of atrocities and human-made catastrophes, the short but terrifying rule of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge stands out for its extreme cruelty and violence. The radical communist movement, created in the late 1960s by a group of Khmer students in Paris, seized power in April 1975 after a brutal civil war. The country was renamed Democratic Kampuchea, and one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, became its prime minister. Under his tyrannical rule - ideologically a mix of Maoism and Khmer nationalism with a strong xenophobic streak - a reign of terror was unleashed.

In a mere four years (1975-1979), the regime's policies caused the death of an estimated 2 million people (possibly even more) out of a population of under 8 million. Though the death toll of those terrible years is often referred to as "Cambodian genocide", at least 5% of the victims of the Khmer Rouge were minorities, in particular Vietnamese and Cham. Many were died of forced labour, famine and disease - results of the regime's attempts at agricultural reform (inspired by China's Great Leap Forward) and other extreme economic policies. However, the majority of the victims were killed as supposed enemies of the state: it was enough to be a city dweller or a highly educated person to be perceived as somebody to be eliminated. The regime's notorious secret police, the Santebal, arrested, tortured and executed thousands of people in prison camps such as Tuol Sleng (now a museum), located in the capital Phnom Penh.

After the Khmer Rouge regime fell to the Vietnamese in January 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued to fight for at least another decade. Only a few of their leaders, however, were tried for crimes against humanity and convicted for life. Pol Pot died in 1998 of a heart attack before he could be brought to justice for his crimes.
3. Famines under British rule (1765-1947)

The recurring famines that ravaged the Indian subcontinent under British rule were not concentrated in a short amount of time, but spread over a period of 190 years. Obviously, South Asia had experienced other similar events before the advent of the British, on an equally devastating scale: however, the difference lay in the major role played by human agency. The first of these famines, which struck India shortly after the East India Company took control of large parts of the subcontinent, was the Great Bengal famine of 1770, counted among the worst in history. A combination of natural causes (crop failures and epidemics), short-sighted policies and political unrest led to the death of about one-third of the population of the eastern states of Bengal and Bihar - approximately 10 million people in a three-year period (1769-1771).

The worst of the famines that occurred in 19th-century India were partly due to the weather phenomenon known as El Nińo, but were exacerbated by the British colonial government's adoption of laissez-faire economic ideology and adherence to Malthusian theories of population control. Between 1876 and 1899, three famines claimed the lives of nearly 20 million people all over the subcontinent: in spite of that, export of wheat and other grains to Britain continued unabated, while relief efforts were largely insufficient. In 1943 - just a few years before independence - another famine killed between 1.5 and 3 million people in Bengal, again with major responsibilities on the part of the British authorities.

As a whole, it is believed that, in the 190 years of British rule in India, famines may have caused the death of between 12 and 51 million people.
4. Mongol invasions and conquests

Although they may disagree on the actual numbers, most historians will agree on the devastating impact of the Mongol invasions of the 13th and 14th centuries not only on the population of the vast areas of Eurasia where they occurred, but also on the global population. Most of that terrible legacy of death and destruction can be laid at the door of Genghis Khan, who ruled for only 21 years (1206-1227). His reign, though relatively short, is estimated to have caused the death of at least 30 million people, leaving large areas of East and Central Asia severely depopulated. The conquests of Tamerlane, a descendant of Genghis Khan, in the late 14th century brought about further death and destruction - bringing the total body count up to almost 60 million between 1206 and 1405.

However exaggerated these figures may feel to our modern minds, it is undeniable that the Mongol conquests were among the most traumatic events in world history. In the light of the havoc wreaked by those nomadic conquerors, it should not come as a surprise that more than one historian has used the word "genocide" to describe the effects of those invasions. The largest empire in history, which at its peak stretched from Hungary to the Pacific Ocean, was bought with fire, blood, and terror. Skilled practitioners of psychological warfare, the Mongols would destroy any city that resisted them, and slaughter the whole population. In addition, immense damage was done to the cultural heritage of the conquered regions: their most famous victim was Baghdad, whose fall in 1258 marked the end of the Islamic Golden Age.

In spite of the Mongol armies' undeniable penchant for violence, much of the death toll reported above was due to other causes, such as famine, disease, and forced displacement. The spread of the Black Death, which wiped out over one-third of Europe's population, has often been attributed to Mongol conquests: though this has been widely questioned, the Mongol armies did practice forms of biological warfare, such as catapulting the bodies of plague victims into city walls.
5. Holodomor

Meaning "death by hunger" in Ukrainian, the Holodomor of 1932-1933 is one of the most egregious examples of anthropogenic (human-made) famine. Though other grain-producing parts of the Soviet Union were also affected, Ukraine was the worst-hit, with such extensive loss of life that the disaster is widely regarded as a genocide perpetrated by the regime of Joseph Stalin against ethnic Ukrainians. A series of policies by the government - such as collectivization of agriculture, campaigns against small landowners (kulaks), food requisitioning, and heavy industrialization - combined with bad weather and other technical issues, led to a devastating famine that claimed millions of lives. Kazakhstan, another major grain-producing region of the USSR, sustained the loss of more than half its population in 15 years.

While the famine was raging, the authorities were bent on denying its very existence. Starving peasants were prevented from leaving the country by having their passports confiscated. Aid was also doled out selectively, prioritizing certain areas or categories of people over others. A number of historians maintain that the famine was deliberately engineered by Stalin in order to punish Ukrainians for their refusal to accept Soviet rule. In any case, the death toll of the famine for Ukraine alone is estimated to have been between 3.5 and 5 million, though others have suggested higher figures. The tragedy of the Holodomor has become deeply ingrained in the Ukrainian psyche, also influencing the events that led to the Russian invasion of February 2022. Since 1998, Holodomor Remembrance Day has been observed in Ukraine on the fourth Saturday in November.

Western Europe learned about the Holodomor and the Soviet famine in general through the work of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who in 1933 published an eyewitness account of the tragedy. Two years later, while investigating in Inner Mongolia, Jones was kidnapped and eventually murdered - according to some, by the Soviet secret police.
6. Thirty Years' War

Those who grew up in Europe in the decades following WWII may find it hard to believe that the continent was a battlefield for much of its long history. While the second conflict on a global scale tops any lists of human-made disasters in terms of death toll, the Thirty Years' War - fought in 1618-1648 in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire - had devastating consequences for large parts of the continent. Initially a religious war between Catholics and Protestants, the conflict later took a stronger political connotation, pitting various European kingdoms and ruling houses against each other, and laying waste to much of Central Europe. Some historians regard the Thirty Years' War as part of the troubled period of the mid-17th century known as the "General Crisis", characterized by a nearly constant state of conflict and unrest in much of Europe and Asia.

The estimated death toll of the war - between 4.5 and 8 million - includes both soldiers and civilians. In particular, some regions of Germany lost over half of their population to violence, starvation, disease and migration. Many of those civilian deaths occurred after 1630, when Sweden - then a powerful empire - entered the conflict. Particularly devastating for the civilian population was the fact that most of the armies consisted of foreign mercenaries, who were often unpaid and were forced to find their compensation in rape and pillage. One of the war's worst atrocities was the sack of the Protestant city of Magdeburg (now in eastern Germany), destroyed by the Imperial Army and the forces of the Catholic League in 1631 - claiming the lives of most of the city's population of 25,000, as well as its military defenders. The worst consequence of the war, however, was the breakdown in the social order, which sparked numerous instances of lawlessness and religious fanaticism (such as witch hunts), as well as widespread environmental damage.

A stark, unflinching depiction of the suffering of common people during the Thirty Years' War can be found in Bertolt Brecht's 1939 anti-war play "Mother Courage and Her Children".
7. Albigensian Crusade

In terms of death toll, the crusade unleashed by the Catholic Church against the Cathars (also known as Albigensians from the name of the French city of Albi), a sect that flourished in southern France during the High Middle Ages, may not be on the same level as some of the events mentioned in this quiz. However, the persecution of the followers of this movement - deemed heretical by the Church - was one of the bloodiest occurrences of that time, which had a huge impact not only on population numbers, but also on the culture and society of that region. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 1 million people perished between 1209 and 1229.

More than an actual Christian heresy, Catharism was a dualistic religion derived from Gnosticism - believing in the eternal conflict between good (the world of the spirit) and evil (creation and matter). In the 12th century, the Cathars established a durable presence in the region known as Languedoc - at the time a very prosperous and culturally advanced part of Western Europe. The Church's earliest initiatives in dealing with this movement consisted mainly in the excommunication of some high-profile figures; then, in 1209, the military campaign against the Albigensians began in earnest. A series of atrocities followed, such as the massacre of Béziers, in which the whole population of the city (around 20,000 people) was slaughtered. However, even after the Treaty of Paris of 1229, which marked the official ends of the Crusade, some pockets of Cathar resistance endured until the mid-14th century, when the movement was finally eradicated.

Much of the violence that characterized the Albigensian Crusade has been attributed to acts of fanaticism rather than genuine military action. Some historians have labeled the Crusade as the first "ideological genocide" in history, though there is disagreement on the use of the term.
8. Atlantic slave trade

Of the many historical manifestations of the despicable phenomenon of the trade of human beings, the Atlantic slave trade is the one with which people are most familiar - in particular for its impact on the social, economic and political fabric of the countries involved. The figures of the death toll exacted by this atrocity - which lasted for over 300 years - vary wildly according to different sources: the lowest estimate puts the victims of the Atlantic slave trade at 2 million, while the highest is an astounding 60 million. While the truth, as it is often the case, probably lies in the middle, there is no denying the immense human cost of this practice.

As indicated on the map, the region of West Africa around the Gulf of Guinea was the main source of the slaves that were transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas - first to the Caribbean and South America (in particular Brazil), and later to the British colonies of North America. From the mid-15th century, when the first African slaves were transported to Portugal, through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries (as well as a good part of the 19th century, in spite of abolition efforts), millions of Black Africans of every age were shipped across the Atlantic to work in sugarcane, cotton and other plantations. Many died during the voyage to the New World, and many others as soon as they arrived there. For those who survived, life expectancy was very low: disease, malnutrition and mistreatment claimed thousands of lives. Though not all historians agree on labeling the Atlantic slave trade as genocide because profit and not extermination was the ultimate goal, the callous disregard for human life of those who engaged in this activity was nothing short of blood-chilling.

Black African slaves were also traded to the Muslim world and Asia across the Sahara and via the ports on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Other hubs of the slave trade were located in the Mediterranean and various parts of the Ottoman Empire. The human toll exacted by the slave trade throughout the centuries amounts to many millions.
9. Congo Free State

Comprising all of present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congo Free State was the private property of Leopold II, King of Belgium, who ruled it as an absolute monarch from 1885 to 1908. Largely covered by tropical rainforest, the vast territory was rich in natural resources, in particular rubber, ivory and minerals. Leopold had seized control of the region at the Berlin Conference on Africa (1884-1885), convincing other European countries of his interest in bringing civilization and economic development to its people. In reality, he ruled the unfortunate state with an iron fist, mercilessly exploiting the population and subjecting them to atrocities that eventually caused an international scandal, when in 1904 a report by British consul Roger Casement brought them to light.

Leopold's administration's treatment of the people of the Congo Free State was reminiscent of the worst excesses of slavery. Leopold's private army, the Force Publique, consisted mainly of Black soldiers (though the officers were all white Europeans), who could be particularly cruel towards the hapless labourers.Though the actual death toll is hard to determine due to the lack of accurate records, it has been estimated to be in the region of 10 million: the Congo Free State lost half of its population in those terrible years. Many of those deaths were directly caused by violence: those who did not meet their rubber collection quota were executed, and their hands chopped off as proof of the deed. Many more people, however, died of malnutrition, diseases spread by the Europeans, or simply exhaustion and maltreatment.

Due to the outcry that followed the Casement Report, Leopold II was eventually forced to relinquish the Congo Free State, which in 1908 was annexed by Belgium as the colony of Belgian Congo.
10. Spanish colonization

Colonization by another power is always a traumatic event. Few events in history, however, have had such a devastating impact on a large part of the world as the Spanish colonization of the Americas, which started with Christopher Columbus' expedition of 1492. While the peoples adversely impacted by the Mongol invasions in the Middle Ages eventually recovered, and their numbers picked up again, the native populations of the Americas never truly did. It is estimated that by 1600 - before the colonization of present-day eastern Canada and US began - almost 90% of the indigenous population of Mexico, Central America (including the Caribbean) and South America had died out. The figures are staggering: by some estimates, almost 60 million people died - mostly of diseases (in particular smallpox) spread by the European colonizers, but also because of famine, slavery, and violent conflict. Of a total indigenous population of about 112 million before the arrival of the Europeans, by the late 17th century between 5 and 15 million remained.

Believing the native population to be inexhaustible, the Spanish subjected them to forced labour in brutal conditions (especially in the mines), which caused entire tribes to die out. When their numbers started dwindling, in some parts of the Americas (such as Brazil and Colombia) the natives were replaced by African slaves. However, as destructive as the Spanish and Portuguese colonization had been to the native peoples of the Americas, the impact of the French and British colonization of North America proved even worse, coming very close to eradicating the Native American population altogether.

Now the largest indigenous populations are found in Mexico, the US and parts of South America, in particular Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. The total figure is estimated at around 62 million.
Source: Author LadyNym

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor ponycargirl before going online.
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