Managing morbidity and mortality: pandemic influenza in France, 1889-1890



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Texas Tech University


I initially began this project with a focus on the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918, an event that has begun to receive both scholarly and popular attention, including books by Gina Kolata and Peter Davies and a PBS special. As I began to gather information I repeatedly stumbled across references to an 1889 pandemic. I was intrigued because I had never heard of it. I was also drawn to the pandemic of 1889 because I wanted to produce an original work using material that had not been previously consulted. Closer research and the consultation of statistical records revealed a remarkable, yet forgotten, outbreak of influenza.

My goals for my thesis were to produce a study in French medical history, focusing on the reactions, both public and private, to an outbreak of infectious disease. My desire to research an epidemic stems from an interest in public health and epidemiology that almost pulled me away from graduate studies in history. I have always been fascinated with medicine, and as I began my research, I found myself focusing on the scientific texts about influenza and the 1889 epidemic.