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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

Nov 10, 2018

This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, I speak with historian Nancy K. Bristow about her book, American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. In November 1918, even as millions of Americans and Europeans celebrated the end of World War I, their communities were being ravaged by a global influenza pandemic.  Over the course of almost three years, somewhere between 50 and 100 million people were killed in the pandemic, including nearly 700,000 Americans. Nancy Bristow takes us back in time to explain the origins of the pandemic and how public health officials struggled to contain it. And she explores the reasons why the pandemic quickly faded from public memory.

In the course of our discussion, Nancy Bristow:

The origins of the great influenza pandemic that raged across the globe in 1918-1920.

How the movement of millions of people during WW1 contributed to the spread of the pandemic.

What made this particular strain of influenza so deadly.

How public health officials struggled to contain the pandemic by imposing bans on large public gatherings, including church services.

How nurses played a pivotal role in caring for the sick and dying.

Why the pandemic – which killed nearly 700,000 Americans -- was largely forgotten in public memory.

Why experts fear the onset of another global influenza pandemic.

Recommended reading

Nancy K. Bristow, American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Oxford University Press).

Catharine Arnold, Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History

Alfred W. Crosby, America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918

David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society

More info about Nancy K. Bristow - website 


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Related ITPL podcast episodes:

024 Michael Neiberg on World War I and the Making of Modern America

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Blue Dot Sessions, “Sage the Hunter” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting

Podcast Editing: Wildstyle Media

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

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© In The Past Lane, 2018

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