Reviewer: Elizabeth Connor, MLS, DM/AHIP(The Citadel)
Description: This readable and compelling account explains the role of race, gender and class, promotion of physical fitness and public education, and America's public health strategy during the influenza epidemics in 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1922. Historian Bristow details how this pandemic challenged the sense of American identity.
Purpose: The intention of this book was to examine the economic and societal impact of various influenza outbreaks in the United States, as reflected by the medical literature, and to provide compelling glimpses of loss and recovery related to influenza. The lack of preparation and organization by early twentieth-century medical professionals will educate some readers.
Audience: Health practitioners and historians alike will appreciate this work, especially those who are interested in infectious diseases, public health, and nursing.
Features: The work is organized into five chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. More than 50 pages of end notes elucidate points made in each chapter. Excellent period photographs enhance the work. The book also includes a two-page list that explains various abbreviations, an adequate six-page index, and a splendid 20-page selected bibliography.
Assessment: Quite a number of recent titles deal with the same subject, including Envisioning Disease, Gender, and War: Women's Narratives of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Fisher (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Flu: A Social History of Influenza, Quinn (New Holland Publishers, 2008); The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919, Kent (Bedford/St. Martin's); America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918, 2nd edition, Crosby (Cambridge University Press, 2003); and The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, Barry (Viking Adult, 2004). Bristow's work distinguishes itself with her emphasis on influenza epidemics beyond 1918-1919, the roles of physicians and nurses, the importance of public health nursing, and the personal revelation that she lost great-grandparents due to influenza.
"Now among the best of the post-Second World War publications on the great pandemic of the First World War is American Pandemic. Among her book's virtues is its voluminous bibliography stretching for pages and pages which ranks as essential for all students of the subject." Journal of the History of Medicine
"Building on Alfred Crosby's ground-breaking study, as well as an incredible amount of original research, this work on the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic offers a personal, professional, and official account of how Americans came to grips with la grippe, while also reflecting on how the nation's collective memory has been shaped by ignoring this tragedy. A rewarding read and highly recommended." Historian
"[An] excellent social and cultural history of the outbreak. Bristow's work is thoroughly researched. Each chapter draws on a significant number of government records, medical journals, and newspaper articles of the time as well as letters, notes, and diary entries. The result is another fine addition to the recent scholarship of this important event in American history." Journal of American History
"This readable and compelling account explains the role of race, gender and class, promotion of physical fitness and public education, and America's public health strategy during the influenza epidemics in 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1922. Bristow's work distinguishes itself with her emphasis on influenza epidemics beyond 1918-1919, the roles of physicians and nurses, the importance of public health nursing, and the personal revelation that she lost great-grandparents due to influenza." Doody's Book Reviews
"[A]n intimate account of the individual and private sufferings of millions of Americans. Based on solid, comprehensive research, the volume is readable and vivid in language and example...[T]he author breathes life into stories of death...An impressive and important book for students, historians, and lay readers. Highly recommended." CHOICE
"Now among the best of the post-Second World War publications on the great pandemic of the First World War" - Alfred Crosby, Journal of the History of Medicine
"Bristow has written a thoroughly researched and readable book documenting how different groups of Americans experienced and then remembered the influenza epidemic of 1918. Replete with large amounts of new information, this book is a major contribution to the historiography of both the flu and epidemic diseases more broadly."Barron H. Lerner, author of The Breast Cancer Wars
"A gifted story-teller, Bristow shows how the 1918 influenza pandemic affected Americans of all walks of life. American Pandemic is a masterful work of social and medical history that reminds why this dramatic episode matters to public health and the national imagination."Alexandra Minna Stern, University of Michigan
"Well written, engaging......Recommended especially for academic readers and specialists" - Library Journal
"A richly detailed picture of American society as it experienced an extraordinary trauma -one that shook a newly-established confidence in the efficacy of medicine and the responsiveness of civil society. Doctors, nurses, the friends and families of the sick all play a part in this carefully and imaginatively researched and lucidly written account of America's last great epidemic."Charles Rosenberg, Harvard University
"An excellent social and cultural history of the outbreak. Bristow expertly delves into the tragedy and seeks to reconcile the 'public amnesia' of the nation with the private remembering of individuals." - Journal of American History
and their families, including her own