Spanish influenza in Africa : some comments regarding source material and future research

TitleSpanish influenza in Africa : some comments regarding source material and future research
Publication TypeOther
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsJ.B. Gewald
Series titleASC working paper
Date Published2007///
PublisherAfrican Studies Centre
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, epidemics, historical sources, history, influenza, West Africa

Spanish influenza remains a touchstone for pandemics. Fear of a coming influenza pandemic has led a number of commentators to draw parallels with the Spanish flu of 1918-1920. However, the majority of observers have chosen to base their findings on data from comparatively accessible North American and Northern European sources, and have excluded African data. This absence of African data has not prevented them from making bold statements about Africa's future. In response to these statements, the present paper draws attention to the social impact of Spanish influenza in Africa, thereby emphasizing the importance of the pandemic for Africa's history in the first half of the 20th century and suggesting further research opportunities. The paper also shows that there is ample material available which would allow for the development of the arguments made by those who choose to exclude African data from their analyses. In particular, the paper uses a sample of material gleaned from the National Archives in Kew to illustrate the course of the Spanish influenza pandemic in three of Britain's West African colonies - Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Nigeria. [ASC Leiden abstract]


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