Journal article 742 views
Fighting 'Flu: Military pathology, vaccines, and the conflicted identity of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Volume: 68, Issue: 1, Pages: 87 - 128
Swansea University Author: Michael Bresalier
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DOI (Published version): 10.1093/jhmas/jrr041
This article explores the decisive role of British military medicine in shaping official approaches to the 1918 influenza pandemic. It contends that British approaches were defined through a system of military pathology, which had been established by the War Office as part of the mobilization of med...
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This article explores the decisive role of British military medicine in shaping official approaches to the 1918 influenza pandemic. It contends that British approaches were defined through a system of military pathology, which had been established by the War Office as part of the mobilization of medicine for the First World War. Relying on the bacteriological laboratory for the identification and control of pathogenic agents, military pathology delivered therapeutic and preventive measures against a range of battlefield diseases, and military and civilian authorities trusted that it could do the same with influenza. This article traces how it shaped efforts to establish the etiology of the pandemic and to produce a general influenza vaccine. It highlights the challenges involved in both strategies. Understanding the central role of military pathology helps make sense of the nature, direction, scale, and limitations of medical mobilization against the pandemic in Britain and the authority accorded to specific medical bodies for elaborating and coordinating strategies. Crucially, it demands that we rethink the relationship between the war and pandemic as one about the social organization of medical knowledge and institutions.
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