The hunt for the virus causing the 1918 influenza pandemic

The hunt for the virus causing the 1918 influenza pandemic and how it has informed science and preparedness for future pandemics. Jeffery Taubenberger (NIAID) and John Oxford (QMUL) spoke at The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters as guests of our CAS project November 8th. You can watch a recording of their talks here The hunt for the virus causing the 1918 influenza pandemic – FilMet ( and also a pod-cast they did here: Part I: Reflections on a pandemic – Viten og snakkis ( Lisa Sattenspiel Tanner and Svenn-Erik Mamelund also did a follow-up podcast Part 2: Reflections on a pandemic – Viten og snakkis (

Final fall webinar

On 1 December at 1600 CET, Tobias A. Jopp and Mark Spoerer, University of Regensburg, will present “Tracing the temporal and spatial course of the Spanish flu in Germany.” Contact for a link.

Abstract: Compared to its tremendous impact, the Spanish flu of 1918-20 is notoriously poorly studied. Based on newly collected mortality data specifically for the female population (not “contaminated” by battlefield casualties), we calculate monthly all-cause excess mortality for the first three waves of the pandemic for 42 German regions. We define a measure of the intensity of the Spanish flu’s incidence on the regional level and examine various impact factors in a regression framework which include distance from the Western Front (from where the flu came), population density, agricultural labour share, female labour force participation in the industrial sector, and density of the railway network.

This will be the last webinar this semester, but stay tuned for next semester’s calendar!

Webinar videos

Catch up on the latest two PANSOC webinars:

Heather Battles, The University of Auckland, “A historical syndemic? Measles and scarlet fever in goldfields-era Victoria”:

Esyllt Jones, University of Manitoba, “Contested Concepts of Borders and Containment in the Great Influenza Pandemic Era in Canada” :

Other past videos can be found here:

Next PANSOC Webinar

Esyllt Jones, University of Manitoba, will present: “Contested Concepts of Borders and Containment in the Great Influenza Pandemic Era in Canada” on 17 November at 1600 CET. Contact for a link.

In Canada, as in other constitutionally federal systems, the response to pandemic influenza was highly decentralized and variable. Local-level tensions emerged over spatial boundaries and containment, and public trust in non-pharmaceutical interventions could not be assumed. In the post-pandemic era, public health searched for a new paradigm. The pandemic strengthened a shift from compulsion to cooperation. However, diverse public perceptions of what a functioning public health system should accomplish and how revealed those struggles over legitimacy and authority that characterize major disease outbreaks historically, including COVID-19. What were the ‘lessons’ of the pandemic? Whether and in what ways the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic shaped public health and disease containment over the longer term is still in many ways an unanswered question.


Esyllt W. Jones (PhD, FRSC) is the Humanities Research Professor in the Faculty of Arts, and Professor in the Departments of History and Community Health Sciences, at the University of Manitoba. She is a historian of infectious disease and society, and the history of movements for socialized medicine. Her books include Influenza 1918: Disease, Death and Struggle in Winnipeg (2007), Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society and Culture in Canada (2012) edited with Madga Fahrni, and Radical Medicine: the International Origins of Socialized Health Care in Canada (2019). The volume Medicare’s Histories: Origins, Opportunities, and Omissions in Canada, edited with James Hanley and Delia Gavrus, was released in June 2022.