The Sword Outside, the Plague Within:' The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Europe

Project: Research project

Project Details


Research and writing leading to a book on the 1918 influenza epidemic in rural Europe, that investigates the social, political, and religious factors shaping responses to the medical crisis.

This book project represents the first transnational cultural history of the 1918 influenza pandemic in Europe. Between 1918 and 1920, the pandemic killed 50+ million people, including 2-3 million Europeans, in the final months of a war that already took 15-20 million lives. The project draws on 978 flu survivors' testimonies, gathered from 10 European countries, to compare Europeans' notions of what caused the pandemic, their impressions of healthcare during the crisis, and their perceptions of the flu as a local, national, and global event. I argue that unlike WWI and COVID-19, the 1918 flu did not serve as a mirror for Europeans' collective aspirations and failures, so they did not remember it as a collective event, despite its extensive and collective effects on society. This thesis explains why the pandemic is undertheorized in the academic record and overlooked in the public memory but is essential for contextualizing COVID-19.

Effective start/end date7/1/236/30/24


  • National Endowment for the Humanities: $60,000.00


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