This Isn’t the First Time a Virus Caused Social Panic. The Spanish Flu Did Too

Historians in the News
tags: immigration, epidemics, influenza, coronavirus, Spanish influenza

Archives at UCLA, the Huntington Library and the City of Los Angeles capture the little-remembered history of how Los Angeles and other cities across the Southland weathered the deadly 1918 Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and over 700,000 in the United States.

Through letters, newspaper clippings, city council minutes, diaries, and photos, these collections offer lessons from the past that historians say can teach people today about how to confront coronavirus.

“Until recently, a pandemic had been kind of abstract,” said Carla Bittel, a Loyola Marymount University history professor who has had her students use archival material to write projects about the Spanish flu. Some of the topics they chose—the efficiency of wearing masks, the pressure on men to suffer silently, the toll that caring for the sick took on healthcare workers—seem pulled from the debates over coronavirus today.

“Holding stationery in their hand, it was very poignant for them, in a way that just reading a book wouldn’t be,” she continued.

Read entire article at Los Angeles Times

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