© 2016

Violence, Statistics, and the Politics of Accounting for the Dead

  • Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos
  • Elizabeth Minor
  • Samrat Sinha


  • Examines the methodological problems of accounting for the dead in armed conflicts

  • Discusses how the body count plays an important part in the narrative of war and its use towards political, humanitarian and military ends

  • Features narrative case studies written by practitioners of casualty recording


Part of the Demographic Transformation and Socio-Economic Development book series (DTSD, volume 4)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Methodologies, Development Issues and Politics

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 23-23
    2. Scott Gates, Håvard Hegre, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård, Håvard Strand
      Pages 25-45
  3. Annexes: Case Studies of the Experiences of Practitioners

  4. Back Matter
    Pages 141-143

About this book


This book examines the methodological problems of accounting for the dead in armed conflicts as well as how the process itself is open to manipulation and controversy. Inspired by the work of the International Practitioner Network of casualty recording organizations, the book features thematic analysis, case studies and historical discussion on the use of the body count towards political, humanitarian and military ends.

The book begins with a strategic analysis of the body count that introduces a general discussion on the measurement of war violence; its treatment by the media, humanitarian organizations, governments and the military; and its legal and political implications. It then examines the accounting for civilian war casualties in past and future conflicts, investigates the way the International Committee of the Red Cross has dealt with the issue of missing persons and the identification of dead bodies in armed conflicts, and explores the role of statistics in aid policy debates, especially in regards to humanitarian workers.

Next, the book details the field of casualty recording as practiced by civil society organizations, with insights from a study of 40 practitioners. It also features narrative case studies that detail the ways human losses were documented during recent conflicts in Northeastern India (2006-2009) and Croatia (1991-1995). In addition, one case study looks at the usefulness of casualty recording in engaging policymakers on the impacts of particular technologies of violence.

This book offers an insightful investigation into violence, statistics and the politics of accounting for the dead. It will appeal to a broad audience of policy-makers, human rights activists, humanitarian practitioners as well as academics.


Armed conflict Civilian and military casualities Estimating and documenting war casualities Humanitarian aid International humanitarian law Measurement of violence Peacekeeping Political manipulation and controversy Situations of armed conflicts War-Excess mortality (body count)

Editors and affiliations

  • Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Minor
    • 2
  • Samrat Sinha
    • 3
  1. 1.Inst Français de Géopolitique (IFG)Université Paris 8Saint-DenisFrance
  2. 2.Every Casualty ProgrammeOxford Research GroupLondonUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Centre for Study of Political ViolenceJindal School of Intern AffairsSonepatIndia

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“The book is a vital contribution for anyone involved beyond the numbers in this particularly difficult kind of excess mortality. … The book performs a notable service in documenting methodologies to measure and evaluate this special kind of excess mortality within the realm of population studies. … This book cannot be ignored by those engaged directly in this work and by those dealing with its consequences.” (Johanne Sanschagrin, Canadian Studies in Population, Vol. 44 (1-2), 2017)