Using primary and archival sources with testimony from those who witnessed the spread of the Spanish flu, historian Catharine Arnold reconstructs the dramatic spread of one of the deadliest outbreaks in history, felling a third of the world population at the height of World War I.
The stories of a few of these victims (and some survivors) are central to Ms. Arnold’s Pandemic 1918. She is good at looking at civilians as well as troops and their nurses and doctors and at teasing out the human side of the catastrophe ... Ms. Arnold, a British popular historian, uses... contemporary scientific activity to round out her account, but her center of gravity is the original pandemic, whose final toll can never be known. Her stories, many taken from previous historical works but also from newspaper accounts and archival material, make good reading. There are, however, a few signs of haste: She once relocates Fort Riley to Texas; the historian Alfred Crosby, author of a pioneering study of the pandemic, is once dubbed Albert; the British public health doctor J.A. Turner becomes 'Turned'; and quinine, often used in influenza cases in 1918, is confidently described as no longer being recommended then for treating malaria, though it certainly was. These and other slips mar her account but do not negate the powerful stories of ordinary people—children, brides, farmers, soldiers, nurses, doctors—that form the heart of her book.
In clear, engaging prose, Arnold takes readers through the horrifying familiar details again: the rapid spread of the disease as infected populations were shifted in the wake of the war, the vicious nature of the 'second wave' of the disease, when victims who’d felt perfectly healthy at breakfast could collapse on the street hours later and be dead by sundown, and the widespread social reactions, as ineffective protective face masks became chic fashion accessories and morbid ditties about the disease became best-selling songs. The strongest element of Pandemic 1918 is its virtually cinematic use of contemporary reactions to it all, from famous sources like Robert Graves or Vera Brittain to the unknown medical foot soldiers on the front lines of fighting the disease and helping the sick.
In Pandemic 1918, historian Catharine Arnold provides a detailed and chilling look at the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, explaining what has been learned in the 100 years since this deadly epidemic, which killed more than 50 million people ... Arnold gives firsthand accounts from those who witnessed and survived the Spanish flu’s deadly grip while examining its impact. By exploring family memories, journals and medical documents, she is able to focus on these personal stories that have been preserved and handed down over the years.