Two men discover a dead body in the street during the Great Plague of London.
19th-century wood engraving. Herbert Railton/Wellcome Collection
Accounts of previous epidemics – by Samuel Pepys, Daniel Defoe and Katherine Porter – warn of mistakes that we risk repeating.
In the wake of COVID-19, the 2020s may be a time when we reconsider how we work, run governments and have fun, just as the 1920s were. This illustration of a flapper girl, created by artist Russell Patterson in the 1920s, captures the style of that era.
(Library of Congress)
A century ago, the end of the 1918 flu pandemic was followed by a period of prosperity, cultural flourishing and social change known as the Roaring ‘20s. Will the end of COVID-19 launch a similar era?
Armistice Day celebrations on Nov. 11, 1918, worried public health experts as people crowded together in cities across the U.S.
Americans were tired of social distancing and mask-wearing. At the first hint the virus was receding, people pushed to get life back to normal. Unfortunately another surge of the disease followed.
Apia harbour on the island of Upolu, Samoa, where the deadly influenza virus came ashore in 1918.
After recent suspected COVID-19 cases and with repatriation flights postponed, Samoa takes no chances.
Chicago students doing broadcasted ‘radio school’ lessons in 1937.
Bettmann / Getty Images
This isn’t the first time America’s schoolchildren have studied remotely – and Chicago’s 1937 ‘radio school’ experiment shows how technology can fill the gap during a crisis.
The arts, literature and culture provide models for hope and resilience in times of crisis.
The radical hope we find in the arts, culture and literature is often a reflection of the times. Drawing from the past there are many examples of how dreams can become a form of resilience.
A scene from Giovanni Boccaccio’s ‘The Decameron’ – sales of which have reportedly risen during the pandemic.
John Waterhouse/Lady Lever Art Gallery
Narratives throughout history illustrate how pandemics make people grapple with their faith, leading them to deepen religious beliefs or reject them altogether.
Policemen in Seattle, Washington, wearing masks made by the Red Cross, during the influenza pandemic, December 1918.
As the US battled the 1918 influenza pandemic, some communities staged contentious battles against wearing masks. Sound familiar?
Donald Trump is no Winston Churchill and the coronavirus pandemic is not like a world war.
(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
It’s always dangerous to put present-day events into historic perspectives. That’s especially true when political leaders have compared the coronavirus pandemic to a war effort.
Daily deaths from COVID-19 have rarely been below 600 in the U.S. since March.
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
There’s no scientific definition for a wave of disease – and no evidence that the original onslaught of coronavirus in the US has receded much at all.
A list of rules from the U.S. Public Health Service in 1918 to reduce the chances of contracting or spreading the devastating flu pandemic.
Getty Images / Fototeca Storica Nazionale
How politicians and the public in Denver, Colorado handled the 1918 flu epidemic is relevant to today.
The U.S. as a whole is facing a huge surge in coronavirus cases, but the differences between states like New York and Florida are striking.
Kena Betancur/1207979953 via Getty Images
The recent spike in new coronavirus cases in the US is not due to a second wave, but simply the virus moving into new populations or surging in places that opened up too soon.
A Cholera Patient, Random Shots No. 2. Cartoon by British satirist Robert Cruikshank, circa 1832.
Pandemic histories are useful for understanding COVID-19, but how they connect with race, public health, revolution, labour and colonialism are needed to explain the present and predict the future.
Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic at Camp Funston in Kansas around 1918.
National Museum of Health and Medicine
A century ago, the influenza pandemic killed about 50 million people. Today we are battling the coronavirus pandemic. Are we any better off? Two social scientists share five reasons we have to be optimistic.
US soldiers with influenza at Aix-Les-Bains in France in 1918.
U.S. Army photographer via Wikimedia Commons
PODCAST: The third part of a series from The Anthill Podcast on how the world recovered from major crises throughout history focuses on the recovery after 1918.
These kids learned about staying healthy in schools around the time of the 1918 pandemic.
Cornell University Library
School systems realized that they couldn’t deal with the pandemic on their own.
Dead men do tell tales through their physical remains.
AP Photo/Francesco Bellini
People have lived with infectious disease throughout the millennia, with culture and biology influencing each other. Archaeologists decode the stories told by bones and what accompanies them.
The World Health Organization estimates that 117 million people worldwide may have missed a vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children may have fallen behind on their vaccination schedules during the pandemic, increasing the risk that COVID-19 may be followed by outbreaks of once-eradicated diseases.
A pandemic from a century ago doesn’t necessarily chart the course of the pandemic happening now.
National Photo Company Collection/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Differences in the viruses’ biology and societal contexts mean there’s no guarantee today’s pandemic will mirror the ‘waves’ of infection a century ago.
Cremation on the banks of the Ganges river, India.
Keystone-France via Getty Images
When the 1918 influenza pandemic struck India, the death toll was highest among the poor.