Cover image for America's forgotten pandemic : the influenza of 1918
America's forgotten pandemic : the influenza of 1918
Crosby, Alfred W.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 337 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC150.1 .C76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Between August 1918 and March 1919 the Spanish influenza spread worldwide, claiming over 25 million lives, more people than those perished in the fighting of the First World War. It proved fatal to at least a half-million Americans. Yet, the Spanish flu pandemic is largely forgotten today. In this vivid narrative, Alfred W. Crosby recounts the course of the pandemic during the panic-stricken months of 1918 and 1919, measures its impact on American society, and probes the curious loss of national memory of this cataclysmic event. In a new edition, with a new preface discussing the recent outbreaks of diseases, including the Asian flu and the SARS epidemic, America's Forgotten Pandemic remains both prescient and relevant. Alfred W. Crosby is a Professor Emeritus in American Studies, History and Geography at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for over 20 years. His previous books include Throwing Fire (Cambrige, 2002), the Measure of Reality (Cambridge, 1997) and Ecological Imperialism (cambridge, 1986). Ecological Imperialism was the winner of the 1986 Phi Beta Kappa book prize. The Measure of Reality was chosen by the Los Angeles Times as one of the 100 most important books of 1997.

Author Notes

Alfred Worcester Crosby Jr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 15, 1931. He received a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard University in 1952. He served as a sergeant in the Army in the Panama Canal Zone. After his service, he received a doctorate in history from Boston University. He taught at Washington State University for 11 years and at the University of Texas in Austin for 22 years. He retired in 1999 as professor emeritus of geography, history, and American studies.

He was considered the father of environmental history. He incorporated studies of biology, ecology, geography, and other sciences in his efforts to chronicle and understand human events. He wrote numerous books including The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492; Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900; Germs, Seeds and Animals: Studies in Ecological History; The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600; and Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Unappeasable Appetite for Energy. He died from complications of Parkinson's disease on March 14, 2018 at the age of 87.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Ever since AIDS, books on epidemics have been, well, epidemic. SARS, no doubt, is responsible for this new work on America's "forgotten pandemic" (1st ed., 1989), a well-regarded work on the influenza scourge of 1918-20. "Spanish Influenza," as it was called, killed millions worldwide before it disappeared. Where did it come from? Where did it go? Could we prevent or conquer a modern outbreak? We have only theories and suppositions. Unlike the smallpox virus, the Spanish Influenza virus is not available to scientists to experiment with. The disease remains "a mystery wrapped in an enigma," and it behaved differently than any influenza before and since, in that it especially killed people 20 to 40 years old, rather than the very young and the elderly. The author details the disease's progress ship by ship, city by city, and country by country. He also examines the effect influenza had on the Versailles Treaty--President Wilson and a number of delegates were stricken with the disease; as older persons, however, they all survived. Well written and magnificently researched, this is an accessible book about a very troubling disease. It bears testimony to the fragility of human life, and it deserves to be widely read. ^BSumming Up: Essential. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through professionals. I. Richman emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg Campus

Table of Contents

Part I An Abrupt Introduction to Spanish Influenza
1 The great shadow
Part II Spanish Influenza: The First Wave - Spring and Summer, 1918
2 The advance of the influenza virus
3 Three explosions - Africa, Europe, and America
Part III The Second and Third Waves
4 The United States begins to take note
5 Spanish Influenza sweeps the country
6 Flu in Philadelphia
7 Flu in San Francisco
8 Flu at sea on voyage to France
9 Flu and the American expeditionary force
10 Flu and the Paris Peace Conference
Part IV Measurements, Research, Conclusions, and Confusions
11 Statistics, definitions, and speculations
12 Samoa and Alaska
13 Research, frustration, and the isolation of the virus
14 Where did the flu of 1918 go?
Part V Afterword
15 An inquiry in the peculiarities of human memory