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Accounting for Death in War: Separating Fact from Fiction

Royal Holloway, University of London via FutureLearn


Understand how war deaths are counted

Calculating the number of deaths during a war is a difficult, but necessary, task - having accurate information is crucial for political and societal debates and decisions.

On this course you will explore the methods currently used to account for war deaths and then apply these methods to particular wars. Along the way you will debunk some widely circulated war-death claims. You will focus mainly on direct, violent deaths but will also cover some estimates of non-violent deaths caused indirectly by war.

This course is for anyone interested in war, history and politics and/or the use and abuse of numbers and statistics. You don’t need an advanced knowledge of mathematics.


  • Documentation of violent war deaths
    • Welcome to the course
    • Military personnel
    • Including civilians
    • Casualty recording
    • Conclusion
  • Estimation of violent war deaths
    • Introduction
    • Sample surveys
    • Applying survey methods to estimate violent war deaths
    • Quantifying uncertainty
    • Survey success and failure
    • Capture-recapture - multiple systems estimation
    • Conclusion
  • Beyond violent deaths
    • Introduction
    • Excess deaths and indirect deaths
    • Problems with excess deaths in theory and practice
    • Injuries
    • Consolidating our knowledge
    • Conclusion

Taught by

Michael Spagat


4.4 rating at FutureLearn based on 10 ratings

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