Tag Archives: epidemics

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM 1918 INFLUENZA DIARIES

13 Apr
Seattle police officers wearing masks in 1918

Seattle police officers wearing masks in 1918 (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

When Dorman B.E. Kent, a historian and businessman from Montpelier, Vermont, contracted influenza in fall 1918, he chronicled his symptoms in vivid detail. Writing in his journal, the 42-year-old described waking up with a “high fever,” “an awful headache” and a stomach bug.

“Tried to get Dr. Watson in the morning but he couldn’t come,” Kent added. Instead, the physician advised his patient to place greased cloths and a hot water bottle around his throat and chest.

So begins Meilan Solly’s introduction to selections from 1918 diaries during the Great Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. You may read her entire Smithsonian post here.

Folks should have paid more attention to historian William McNeill

8 Apr

William McNeill, the eminent University of Chicago historian, won a National Book Award for his first book, Rise of the West in 1964. But it his second book, Plagues and Peoples, published in 1975 that many readers today will find eerily prophetic.

So begins James Thornton Harris’s review of McNeill’s 1975 book Plagues and Peoples. You may read Harris’s entire History News Network piece here.

HOW EPIDEMICS SHAPED MODERN LIFE

2 Apr
How Epidemics Shaped Modern Life | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A lithograph by Alice Dick Dumas depicts children going to a clinic for a health check to prevent the advance of disease. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

At the end of the 19th century, one in seven people around the world had died of tuberculosis, and the disease ranked as the third leading cause of death in the United States. While physicians had begun to accept German physician Robert Koch’s scientific confirmation that TB was caused by bacteria, this understanding was slow to catch on among the general public, and most people gave little attention to the behaviors that contributed to disease transmission. They didn’t understand that things they did could make them sick. In his book, Pulmonary Tuberculosis: Its Modern Prophylaxis and the Treatment in Special Institutions and at Home, S. Adolphus Knopf, an early TB specialist who practiced medicine in New York, wrote that he had once observed several of his patients sipping from the same glass as other passengers on a train, even as “they coughed and expectorated a good deal.” It was common for family members, or even strangers, to share a drinking cup.

So begins Katherine A. Foss’s concise and insightful essay on how some past epidemics have reshaped modern society. You may read her entire Zocalo essay here.

How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Helped Advance Women’s Rights

3 Mar

More women than men were left standing after the war and pandemic.

One hundred years ago, a powerful strain of the flu swept the globe, infecting one third of the world’s population. The aftermath of this disaster, too, led to unexpected social changes, opening up new opportunities for women and in the process irreversibly transforming life in the United States.

The virus disproportionately affected young men, which in combination with World War I, created a shortage of labor. This gap enabled women to play a new and indispensible role in the workforce during the crucial period just before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage in the United States two years later.

So begins a fascinating post by three academics at Texas A & M. You may read the rest of their post at Smithsonian.com here.

THE FLU PANDEMIC OF 1918, AS REPORTED IN 1918

16 Jan

Flu hospital 1918

The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed more people than combat did in the First World War. Maybe a lot more: fatality estimates range from 20-40 million to twice that around the globe. In the United States, a quarter of the population came down with the flu; some 675,000 died. Only the American Civil War has been more lethal.

So begins Matthew Wills’ concise reminder of the flu 100 years ago. You may read the entire post at JSTOR Daily here.

 

 

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