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America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 English Language Edition

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521386951
ISBN-10: 0521386950
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Editorial Reviews


"Thoroughly researched and rich in detail, Crosby's book carefully narrates the rise and fall of the global pandemic, especially as it affected the United States." Medical History

Book Description

Originally published in 1976, this vivid narrative of the devastating but largely forgotten Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 is updated with a new preface.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; English Language edition (January 26, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521386950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521386951
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,268,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

158 of 163 people found the following review helpful By Greg Gibbs ( on April 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
Sit down, and allow me to scare you for a moment. Imagine that the world is gripped in the throes of the lengthy stalemate of a senseless war that has depleted Europe of most of its young men and resources, and those that remain are destitute, dispirited, starving, and suffering from the lost of loved ones. In the midst of this war, a formerly rather innocuous disease suddenly mutates into a new killer strain which infects all corners of the globe, from Alaska to Africa, within a matter of weeks. This new disease is not only remarkably contagious, but it is so lethal and destroys so many lives in such a short time-frame that even the ghastly global war pales in comparison. Even the greatest medical minds of the time have little idea (or worse, wrong ideas) as to how to prevent or treat the disease and what may be causing it. The disease makes little discrimination with regard to class, race, nationality, or gender, killing all with an unforgiving ferocity. Perhaps the strangest characteristic of this new, invisible killer, is that it seems to especially target people in the prime of their lives, wiping them out at a rate far disproportionate to that seen in the "traditional" victims of disease, people with inexperienced or compromised immune systems, such as the very young and the very old.
The scariest aspect of this tale is that it is not fiction. It has already happened, and scientists not only foresee the repeat of such an apocalyptic scourge as possible, but they express surprise that it hasn't already repeated its destruction... yet.
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102 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Jeff on November 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
I spent 2.5 years studying the flu and the havoc it wrought on Philadelphia, and Mr. Crosby's book was always within reach. It is one of the best sources one will find when studying the flu. Some may complain that it lacks a certain depth, agreed. But that's not what Mr. Crosby set out to do. He wanted to document this forgotten period in American History in a book that was both readable and not impossible to finish in under a decade. As far as his sources go, I feel he did a good job. I search the city high and low and came up with maybe a few items that Mr. Crosby did not. Overall, if you want to read a well researched and well written book, buy "America's Forgotten Pandemic."
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Without a doubt this is an excellent, provocative, and thoughtful book. In and of itself I'd give it 5 stars... But that would make it impossible to rate John Barry's The Great Influenza higher. Of course Barry's book came out 25 years after Crosby's, and to some extent is derivative. But it goes so far beyond Crosby, and adds so much context about scientists, the virus itself, and politics, there is unfortunately no reason to read Crosby any more. Actually that's wrong-- there is a reason. If you wnat tables and statistics, Crosby includes them. Barry does not. Although Barry's book does read better, and has a real narrative flow and scientist-characters.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By James Carragher on January 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Why did the Spanish flu kill 25 million people worldwide? Why did it kill those in the prime of life more efficiently than the usual flu victims, the very young or the very old? Where did it go after its nine month run through the world in 1918-1919? Can it strike again? Why has it been largely forgotten by historians? Engaging questions all, and Alfred Crosby asks them and to a greater or lesser extent seeks to answer them. Still, this book is less than it could be, written for too much of its length as if he were keeping his narrative powers deliberately in check. For those that doubt he is capable of powerful writing, the last chapter stands as rebuttal, with its tribute to Katherine Anne Porter -- to whom the book is dedicated -- and an adult's recollection of how the flu brought home at age seven the early realization that "life was not a perpetual present, and that even tomorrow would be part of the past, and that for all my days and years to come I too must one day die." I'd like to have seen more of those personal close-ups of the impact of the flu instead of the grim numbers in Philadelphia, then the grim numbers in San Francisco, then the grim numbers in Alaska. It is as if Crosby wanted to write a history of the era as it was lived with the flu and wound up writing a journal of morbidity and mortality, and the virus sleuthing that followed. He aimed for a vision and achieved a laboratory slide -- no mean accomplishment, but not, I think, what we or he were finally after.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Nikki Eng on April 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
Between Alfred Crosby and Richard Collier, these two men have written the definitive works on the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Subsequent writers like Iezzoni and Kolata heavily use the primary reseach done by both Crosby and Collier.
Crosby's work does, to some degree, lack eloquent narrative, but it is a superbly researched book on the pandemic. Crosby sticks to the facts and statistics and has achieved a work that is well written history. I would recommend reading Richard Collier's work in conjunction with this work to get the full impact of the pandemic. Crosby focuses on the pandemic's impact in America while Collier focuses on the more global experience. While Collier may have a better flowing narrative, Crosby includes all of the hard statistics which lends a different, more concrete feeling to the subject matter. Overall, if Crosby's work is the left shoe, Collier's is the right shoe. You can read one without the other, but, why would you want to?
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