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Uses of a pandemic: Forging the identities of influenza and virus research in interwar Britain

Michael Bresalier Orcid Logo

Social History of Medicine, Volume: 25, Issue: 2, Pages: 400 - 424

Swansea University Author: Michael Bresalier Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1093/shm/hkr162

Abstract

This paper counters the tendency to retrospectively viralise the 1918–19 pandemic and to gloss the important historiographical point that, in Britain, such knowledge was in-the-making between 1918 and 1933. It traces the genesis of influenza’s virus identity to British efforts in 1918–19 to specify...

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Published in: Social History of Medicine
Published: 2012
Online Access: http://shm.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/2/400.full
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa27787
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Abstract: This paper counters the tendency to retrospectively viralise the 1918–19 pandemic and to gloss the important historiographical point that, in Britain, such knowledge was in-the-making between 1918 and 1933. It traces the genesis of influenza’s virus identity to British efforts in 1918–19 to specify the cause of the pandemic and it examines how, in the 1920s, the British Medical Research Council used the connection between a virus and the pandemic to justify the devel- opment of virus research and to make influenza a core problem around which it was organised. It shows that the organisation of medical virus research was inextricably linked to the pandemic before the actual discovery of flu virus in 1933. Recognising that the relationship between the virus and the disease itself has a history demands we rethink the pandemic’s medical scientific legacy and the crucial role of virus research in shaping its history.
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Issue: 2
Start Page: 400
End Page: 424