Pandemic 1918 Eyewitness accounts from the greatest medical holocaust in modern history

Catharine Arnold

Book - 2018

"Before HIV or Ebola, there was the Spanish flu--this narrative history marks the one hundredth anniversary of an epidemic that altered world history"--Dust jacket flap.

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New York, N.Y. : St. Martin's Press 2018.
First U.S. edition
Item Description
"First published in Great Britain by Michael O'Mara Books Limited."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
357 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 300-344) and index.
Main Author
Catharine Arnold (author)
  • Introduction: An ill wind
  • A victim and a survivor
  • "Knock me down" fever
  • The killer without a name
  • The invisible enemy
  • One deadly summer
  • Know thy enemy
  • The fangs of death
  • Like fighting with a ghost
  • Eye of the storm
  • A winding sheet and a wooden box
  • The Spanish Lady goes to Washington
  • "You can't do anything for flu"
  • "Native daughter dies"
  • The fatal voyage
  • Ship of death
  • "Like a thief in the night"
  • The dying fall
  • Armistice Day
  • Black November
  • Aftermath
  • "Viral archaeology"
  • The Hong Kong connection
  • Secrets of the grave.
Review by Booklist Reviews

The year 2018 marks the centennial of the influenza pandemic that killed millions of people around the world, and this well-timed volume from journalist and popular historian Arnold (Edward VII, 2017) introduces its scope and horror through the testimonies of a wide range of victims and witnesses. She includes the experiences of prominent figures like Gandhi, author Katherine Anne Porter, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain (hence the nickname "Spanish flu") as well as others who are less well-known, describing the miseries of the disease, including bleeding from the lungs and even death by asphyxiation. These accounts also trace the link to the last year of WWI, when global mass mobilization allowed the virus to spread, while censorship stifled an equivalent movement of information that could have helped fight it. Arnold also highlights the social impact of the disease on the communities it affected. The vivid narrative is framed by a discussion of research into the origins and behavior of the flu, along with the lessons it offers for responders in future epidemics. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

One hundred years after the Spanish Flu scoured the globe, killing 50 million people worldwide, popular historian Arnold (Necropolis) offers a history of the pandemic and its far-ranging consequences. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

One hundred years have passed since the deadliest pandemic in history. From 1918 to 1919, the Spanish flu claimed the lives of more than 50 million people worldwide. Drawing from a robust bibliography, historian Arnold presents a collection of essays that colorfully illustrate the everyday impact of the disease, drawing from personal narratives while also citing references in the medical literature as the outbreak was unfolding. Alternating perspectives are presented as each chapter highlights a distinct population as the disease spread in waves across continents. Much of the text focuses on the challenges that World War I posed on containing the flu, with conditions among the soldiers exacerbating the spread of communicable disease. Depictions include U.S. and European army barracks, troop ships, such as the USS Leviathan, and military hospitals. VERDICT An enjoyable read using easily understood terms. Recommended for public health professionals, historical medicine readers, world history buffs, and historical fiction fans.—Carolann Curry, Mercer Univ. Lib., Macon, GA Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Arnold's grim compilation of accounts of the Spanish flu that killed upwards of 100 million people in 1918–19 vividly evokes the tragedy. Starting with a potential "Patient Zero," Pvt. Harry Underdown, Arnold tracks the relentless march of the virus across the globe. It struck healthy young men and women in an "innocuous" first wave in the early spring of 1918; this was followed by a stunningly virulent second wave in the fall, its spread aided by mass WWI troop gatherings and movements. Katherine Anne Porter and Thomas Wolfe wrote of the destruction in fiction; New Yorker editor William Maxwell bemoaned the death of his mother and newborn sibling as a time when "there was a sadness which had not existed before"; the horrified commander of a sickened regiment aboard a troop ship heading for France called the illness "a true inferno" that "reigned supreme." Arnold recounts how the flu devastated Philadelphia, where more than 7,000 died in two weeks of October 1918, creating a shortage of undertakers and caskets. "There were no medicines, no doctors, nothing people could do to heal themselves," one desperate survivor recalled. This well-researched and often overwhelming history serves as a stark warning of the threat of pandemic flu. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary. (Aug.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Describes the outbreak of the Spanish Flu 100 years ago that killed more than 50 million people around the world, including 550,000 in the United States, right in the middle of World War I.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Draws on eyewitness accounts from around the world to describe the outbreak of the Spanish Flu that killed more than fifty million people around the world, including 550,000 in the United States, during and after World War I.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Before AIDS or coronavirus, there was the Spanish Flu — Catharine Arnold's gripping narrative, Pandemic 1918, marks the 100th anniversary of an epidemic that altered world history. In January 1918, as World War I raged on, a new and terrifying virus began to spread across the globe. In three successive waves, from 1918 to 1919, influenza killed more than 50 million people. German soldiers termed it Blitzkatarrh, British soldiers referred to it as Flanders Grippe, but world-wide, the pandemic gained the notorious title of “Spanish Flu”. Nowhere on earth escaped: the United States recorded 550,000 deaths (five times its total military fatalities in the war) while European deaths totaled over two million. Amid the war, some governments suppressed news of the outbreak. Even as entire battalions were decimated, with both the Allies and the Germans suffering massive casualties, the details of many servicemen’s deaths were hidden to protect public morale. Meanwhile, civilian families were being struck down in their homes. The City of Philadelphia ran out of gravediggers and coffins, and mass burial trenches had to be excavated with steam shovels. Spanish Flu conjured up the specter of the Black Death of 1348 and the great plague of 1665, while the medical profession, shattered after five terrible years of conflict, lacked the resources to contain and defeat this new enemy. Through primary and archival sources, historian Catharine Arnold gives readers the first truly global account of the terrible epidemic.