I can't add much to what all the reviewers have already said - well written and quite interesting.
Checked this book out after reading a review in "Distillations", the publication of the Science History Institute. A fascinating read covering not only the technicalities of the influenza viruses, but sociopolitical, religious, artistic, and literary matters as well. Interesting accounts of famous historical figures who suffered from and/or were affected by the 1918 pandemic.
In 1918 an H1N1 influenza virus called the Spanish Flu emerged. It is estimated to have killed between 60 and 100 million people world wide. To put that in perspective: if at the upper end of the estimate, it’s more fatalities than WWI and WWII combined. Pale Rider compiles all of the latest information about the pandemic and presents it from multiple viewpoints: scientific, cultural, historical, economic, and political. We in North America have mostly focused on what happened here and in Europe, but the virus killed millions worldwide in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific region, Africa, and Central/South America; only Antartica was unaffected. The book posits that the after-effects of the Spanish Flu influenced art, political movements in South Africa and India, post WWI negotiations, and epidemiological research methodology. Thoroughly researched and well presented, the book offers a cautionary message about the role of government, the influence of the media, and the responsibilities of individuals and society to an inevitable future pandemic.
Spinney's book joins a surge of interest in the 1918-19 epidemic now that it is coming up to its centenary. Unlike many books that concentrate on its effects in one city or country, hers is a truly global approach to the pandemic. As a science writer, she focuses on the disease, its manifestations and the scientific response, but she also interweaves this with a consciousness of how the experience of suffering and recovering from the flu leached out into music and literature in the succeeding decade.
For my complete review see
I’ll admit- I’m obsessed with the 1918 influenza epidemic. I devour any and every book written about the subject and conduct my own research in my free time. Laura Spinney’s treatment of the epidemic comes at its 100th anniversary, but many mysteries remain to be unraveled including accurate estimates of the death toll. There has been a small explosion of publishing on the subject; Spinney’s stands out from the in its purposefully global perspective. The vast majority of research and analysis has been in the United States and Europe even though statistics available shortly after the last wave of flu receded evidenced a much greater death toll in South America, Africa, and south Asia. Spinney traces the magnified impacts to dramatic social upheaval such as the independence movement in India and the rise of apartheid in South Africa. In pushing past the medical aspects common to most writing on the 1918 flu and drawing on economic, psychological, and sociological research, Spinney delivers a fuller portrait of what actually happened during the epidemic around the whole world and how its catastrophic impacts continue a century later.
Spends most of the book detailing where the outbreaks of the so-called Spanish flu occurred.
With the lack of contemporary public health protocols as well as the dominance of germ theory and the lack of scientific work on viruses, treatment of the flu was ill-equipped to manage outbreaks. Epidemiology had to mature to gather reliable data on the flu disease.
We don't know how many people died from influenza. The estimated infection rate of 1 of every 3 people, as well as the high death rates of infection--anywhere from 50-90 %, yield staggering estimates of 20 m who reportedly died, to possibly up to 5 x that number in actuality.
Certainly the threat of another pandemic remains. An important warning of the future.
I was so engrossed in this book! The affects of that 1918 flu pandemic were so catastrophic, so lasting, and yet so overshadowed by WWI.
I believe that this is the first book on the subject that I've seen go beyond northern North America and Western Europe in terms of the pandemic's course and effects. Again well-researched and the writing is accessible and interesting, even if the subject is a bit grisly.
Excellent history of an event that eclipsed both world wars. The author's witty and anecdotal in telling this story, and has thoroughly researched the topic. The entire book is well thought out, and doesn't overwhelm the reader either. I will be reading her other books too, although there's only a couple.
I wish KCL or SPL would acquire this as ebook or even large print for the vision impaired. Yes, I know it's a audio download, but have you listened to the reader? Update: ebook and audio!!! This will be my second time reading this excellent account.
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