The introductory chapter establishes the importance of knowing how many people die in violent conflicts, and the challenges that must be met to create accurate accounts. To obtain reliable figures on who died, where, and when, researchers must overcome the practical problems of tallying the dead and injured during wars and rebellions, and also circumvent rival parties’ attempts to distort those numbers. Creating authoritative records and counts requires rigorous attention to detail. Without it, recording and counting can promote conflict, rather than peace, as the parties fight over perceived injustices. Accordingly, accurate, accepted records and counts of civilian casualties are fundamental to peacebuilding. The chapter provides a précis of subsequent chapters, which introduce nonspecialists to the science, its controversies, and the debate over what constitutes reliable, valid, and useful data on violence.
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