Using the following documents, analyze responses to the spread of influenza



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The Question:

Using the following documents, analyze responses to the spread of influenza in the early twentieth century.


Historical Background: The influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 killed an estimated 50 million people, many more than the total fatalities of the First World War. Approximately 20%–40% of the global population became ill.
Did you read the question carefully and underline the words that will help ensure that you fully answer the question?

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The Main Ideas:

  • Document 1

  • POV – Medical Doctor’s Letter to Friend – 1918

  • 100 deaths per day in U.S. Army base [Massachusetts]

  • Worse than even battles in France

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  • Document 2

  • POV – Volunteer Nurse in Washington, D.C. – Letter – 1918

  • Many sick

  • Long hours to care for sick

  • Shortage of Nurses

  • Government encouraged people to stay home

http://www.influenzaarchive.org/images/large/stlouis001.jpg

  • Document 3

  • POV – British Colonial Government Report for Leone – 1918

  • Most unfortunate were from out of town

  • Suffered from want of attention

  • Too many sick in a house

  • Or deserted by other residents


http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/1918/the_pandemic/influenza/cartoon_from_1918.jpg

  • Document 4

  • POV – Sanitary Commissioner’s Report – Madras, British India – 1918

  • People from interior feared medical treatment

  • Believed epidemic was a visitation of the Hindu Goddess Amman

  • Believed no treatment should be attempted

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  • Document 5

  • POV – Editorial, Christian Science Monitor – Massachusetts –1918

  • Why should churches be shut down?

  • Church can fill people with peace

  • God can contend with microbes

  • And if God sends pestilence [disease] for the good of the world, then why fight it

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  • Document 6

  • POV – Editorial – Brazil – 1918

  • Lamenting the ignorance of the Public Health Agency

  • Not understanding the disease

  • Letting ships enter the ports

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  • Document 7

  • Two women recalling childhood in1918/1919 in New Zealand - Radio Show – 1967.

  • Take food to people too sick to warm their own food

  • But not allowed to enter their homes – on doorstep

  • Most too weak to pick up soup on doorsteps

  • Fire to fumigate children to prevent spread of germs

  • Kept away from crowds

  • Never too books from libraries




  • Document 8

  • British soldier served in East Africa – 1919

  • Natives made coffins

  • Rumor spread that it was The End

  • God determined to wipe humanity off the world by means of a plague more fatal than man’s destructiveness

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  • Document 9

  • American resident of British Samoa - published in The Evening Post, a New Zealand newspaper – 1919

  • Paper says 8,000 have died but underestimated

  • Ship brought the sickness

  • Within four days it spread all over

  • People died everywhere

  • But kept out of American Samoa

  • Prevented boat from British Samoa from entering

  • Five days quarantine for boat

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Grouping: Responses to Influenza

First Group Second Group Third Group



Trying to deal with the sheer numbers of dead and dying from the epidemic

Government policies that aided the spread of disease or hindered it

Religious responses to the catastrophe

Document 1

Doctor at army base – 100 a day


Document 2

Nurse – long hours – caring for the sick


Document 7

Children bringing soup to the sick



Document 6

Ignorance of Public Health Agency in Brazil: letting ships enter the harbors


Document 9: American Samoa preventing ship from entering port
Document 3: Died from want of attention

Document 4:

A visitation from the Goddess Amman


Document 5: If God sends pestilence, don’t fight it
Document 8: The End of Days

Thesis Statement:

There were a variety of responses to the spread of influenza in the early twentieth century such as government policies that aided or hindered the spread of the disease, religious understandings and justifications for the epidemic, and health care professionals and individuals who simply tried to care for the sick and dying.


Missing Document:

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Who is not present?



  • An African voice

  • The document describing East Africa is from a British colonial report

  • Does this report adequately convey the experiences of the colonial subjects?

  • Might they not have a different understanding of the situation?

And do not forget Point of View Analysis:

Who said it and why it matters that such an individual said it?

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