Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

by Laura Spinney


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In 1918, the Italian-Americans of New York, the Yupik of Alaska and the Persians of Mashed had almost nothing in common except for a virus—one that triggered the worst pandemic of modern times and had a decisive effect on the history of the twentieth century.

The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was one of the greatest human disasters of all time. It infected a third of the people on Earth—from the poorest immigrants of New York City to the king of Spain, Franz Kafka, Mahatma Gandhi and Woodrow Wilson. But despite a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people, it exists in our memory as an afterthought to World War I.

In this gripping narrative history, Laura Spinney traces the overlooked pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind's vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test. As socially significant as both world wars, the Spanish flu dramatically disrupted—and often permanently altered—global politics, race relations and family structures, while spurring innovation in medicine, religion and the arts. It was partly responsible, Spinney argues, for pushing India to independence, South Africa to apartheid and Switzerland to the brink of civil war. It also created the true "lost generation." Drawing on the latest research in history, virology, epidemiology, psychology and economics, Pale Rider masterfully recounts the little-known catastrophe that forever changed humanity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541736122
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 224,232
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Laura Spinney is a science journalist and a literary novelist. She has published two novels in English, and her writing on science has appeared in National Geographic, Nature, The Economist, and The Telegraph, among others. Her oral history portrait of a European city, Rue Centrale, was published in 2013 in French and English.

Table of Contents

Map x

Introduction: The Elephant in the Room 1

Part 1 The Unwalled City 2

1 Coughs and sneezes 13

2 The monads of Leibniz 25

Part 2 Anatomy of a Pandemic 35

3 Ripples on a pond 37

4 Like a thief in the night 46

Part 3 Manhu, or what is it? 59

5 Disease eleven 61

6 The doctors" dilemma 66

7 The wrath of God 75

Part 4 The Survival Instinct 87

8 Chalking doors with crosses 89

9 The placebo effect 121

10 Good Samaritans 136

Part 5 Post Mortem 151

11 The hunt for patient zero 153

12 Counting the dead 166

Part 6 Science Redeemed 173

13 Aenigmoplasma influenzae 175

14 Beware the barnyard 187

15 The human factor 201

Part 7 The Post-Flu World 213

16 The green shoots of recovery 215

17 Alternate histories 228

18 Anti-science, science 234

19 Healthcare for all 240

20 War and peace 247

21 Melancholy muse 261

Part 8 Roscoe's Legacy 273

Afterword: On Memory 287

Acknowledgements 296

Illustration Credits 297

Notes 298

Index 318

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Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Tangen More than 1 year ago
pandemic, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, history-and-culture ---- Impressive body of work. Much more comprehensive yet detailed than any other writings on this subject that I have read, it is not just a statistical report but a compilation of information gleaned from writings from many countries around the globe. The majority of other readings are focused on Europe and North America, while this includes translations from China, Russia, South America, and anywhere else afflicted. The role of The Great War in its transmission is explored as well. The devastation left behind by this pandemic amounted to a great deal more than the casualties of the war. I feel that this should be required reading for all healthcare workers as well as historians. I have the audio interpreted by Paul Hodgson who was truly remarkable.