Social and institutional reactions to the influenza pandemic of 1918-20

Cohn, Jr, S. K. (2020) Social and institutional reactions to the influenza pandemic of 1918-20. Medicine, Conflict and Survival, 36(4), pp. 315-322. (doi: 10.1080/13623699.2020.1820165)

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This essay challenges generalizations since the late enlightenment about the effects of epidemics and pandemics on collective mentalities: that from antiquity to the present, epidemics, regardless of the disease, have sparked distrust, social violence, and the blaming of others. By contrast, the pandemic that killed the greatest numbers in world history–the Influenza of 1918-20 – was a pandemic of compassion. No one has yet to uncover this pandemic sparking collective violence or blaming any minorities for spreading the disease anywhere in the globe. The essay then explores the variety of charitable reactions and abnegation that cut across social divisions in communities from theatres of war in Europe to nations thousands of miles from the direct military encounters. Most remarkable, however, was the overflowing volunteerism of women, especially in the US, Canada, and Australia. To explain this widespread charitable reaction, the essay investigates the milieu of the First World War, showing how that context in domestic war settings was not conducive to risking life to aid total strangers, especially when those strangers came from different foreign countries classes, races, or religious faiths. I end with a reflection on the unfolding socio-psychological reactions to Covid-19 from the perspective of 1918–20.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cohn, Professor Samuel
Authors: Cohn, Jr, S. K.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Medicine, Conflict and Survival
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN (Online):1743-9396
Published Online:10 September 2020

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
169303Epidemics: Waves of disease, waves of hate, from the Plague of Athens to AIDSSamuel CohnLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)MRF-2013-068Arts - History