Pandemics and comparative forgetfulness: The Great Influenza and the Black Death

Cohn, S. (2021) Pandemics and comparative forgetfulness: The Great Influenza and the Black Death. In: Beiner, G. (ed.) Pandemic Re-Awakenings. Oxford University Press: London, pp. 277-289. ISBN 9780192843739 (doi: 10.1093/oso/9780192843739.003.0017)

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This chapter presents two new approaches to challenge Alfred Crosby’s longstanding orthodoxy of the Great Influenza as the great ‘forgotten pandemic’. The first opens the question of the transmission of memory of the pandemic from the generation of the survivors to their children and grandchildren. Even with a small sample of interviewees, the author found that memories of the flu pandemic cut across three generations in a third of the cases, and at least three of the twenty-one questioned related poignant personal stories of how these memories affected their lives from childhood or adolescence. Second, this essay is the first to compare remembrance of the Great Pandemic with that of other epidemics in history, such as yellow fever and cholera. The essay, however, focuses on a comparison between the Great Influenza of 1918–20 and the most remembered pandemic in world history, the Black Death. It finds that the historic memory of this earlier disease was anything but straightforward and charts the Church’s conscious blotting of it from Christianity’s most central and sacred instrument of everlasting memory—hagiography.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cohn, Professor Samuel
Authors: Cohn, S.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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