Has there ever a period in history when people were nice to each other and not killing each other?

In other words, since humans arrived, have the inhabitants of this planet ever enjoyed world peace?

To answer this, we first have to define period. Let's define period as a minimum of 50 years. If there are any periods of time without records, we will have to ignore those periods.

Now let's define not killing each other. By this, I mean no known battles, wars, or genocides on planet earth. I'm not referring to individual acts of violence.

As a curious side note, with over 5,000 questions asked on this StackExchange site, this is the first question to ever implement the tag. Well... almost... I just realized that I don't have enough rep to create a new tag, so perhaps a moderator will be kind enough to add it.

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    Trivially yes; substantively, this is unknowable. Before recorded history there were tens of thousands of years during which there were innumerable genocides, but none of them were known. For many historical periods there are 50 year cycles for which we have minimal or no records; this doesn't mean that there were no wars, just that there are no records. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 12 '16 at 13:00
  • @MarkC.Wallace wrote "Before recorded history there were..." If there was no record, how do you have a record of what happened? I will include that I am referring to time periods for which there are records. – RockPaperLz- Mask it or Casket Sep 12 '16 at 13:15
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – T.E.D. Sep 12 '16 at 18:39
  • You can always ask another, more focused, question. – Schwern Sep 13 '16 at 0:55
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    @Schwern Yes, but if this question is somehow considered to be "trivia or basic historical facts" (it's neither... I spent over two hours researching before posting), then something more focused would be even more basic. I've learned not to push in "close happy" StackExchange forums... it's simpler to just find a forum outside of StackExchange where there is more flexibility. – RockPaperLz- Mask it or Casket Sep 13 '16 at 1:04

Research on history and prehistory shows that there was no such period, contrary to some common myths about "golden age", and "peaceful primitive people". Moreover, they argue that the chances of violent death in 20s century were lower than they were in the primitive societies. That is the fraction of total population killed in all wars in 20s century is lower than during comparable periods in prehistory. See, for example: Keeley, Lawrence H., War Before Civilization. Oxford University Press, 1996.

Concerning the historical times (after the invention of writing) the evidence is abundant: war was one of the main activities of almost all human civilizations.

Of course some local exceptions happen. There was no war on Canadian territory since 1812 (but Canada participated in overseas wars). Switzerland or Iceland probably did not participate in any wars for centuries.

People kill each other in many other ways (crime, death penalty, etc.) but I suppose you are asking about wars. In primitive societies where there is no legal system as we understand it, the difference between wars and crime can be fuzzy.

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  • In the opening of Guns, Germs, & Steel, Diamond mentioned that people in more primitive human societies (specifically including the tribal interior of New Guinea) are much more likely to die via murder. One young woman he talked with was on her 4th husband, all 3 previous killed by other men. He proceeded to talk a bit about the different selective pressure this puts on them... – T.E.D. Sep 12 '16 at 20:56
  • Switzerland was invaded during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and had a civil war in 1848, 170 years ago. Iceland was a Danish possession until 1918, 100 years ago, and thus was theoretically part of Danish wars as recently as 1864, was occupied by Allied forces in 1940, and was raided by Turks and Barbary Pirates in 1627. – MAGolding Jun 17 '18 at 16:25

If you just mean wars, according to this graph from a University of Warwick study (by way of History Today), there was in fact a brief time in 1890 when there was only one war going on.

enter image description here

If you are talking person-to-person conflict, ie: murder, then no. Violence is a standard part of human behavior, shared with our chimpanzee relatives. Just like with chimps, the violence is largely (but not entirely) carried out by males. The natural conclusion here is that whatever common ancestor our two species had 4-13 million years ago, predominantly male violence was likely part of their behavior.

If history is to ever record such a time, Steven Pinkner argues that it is likely to be in our future, not our past. His Better Angels of our Nature argues that the rates of murder and death in warfare have been dropping for centuries. I'm not sure I buy that argument (reference the trajectory of the graph above), but I'd sure like to.

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  • I don't think the question can be answered, because you can't prove a negative; that said, Pinker's work is the right place to start. I misunderstood your assertion; I though you were arguing that there was a period beginning in 1890 with no wars. I grabbed the first two I found. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 12 '16 at 15:35
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    @MarkC.Wallace - I think under the circumstances it would be fair to say "No", and wait (without holding my breath) for someone to prove me wrong. – T.E.D. Sep 12 '16 at 15:46
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – T.E.D. Sep 12 '16 at 20:45

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