The Forgotten Story of Britain and the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918

Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
Nominated for Royal Society Science Book of the Year

Enza cover.png

What it’s about:

Between the summer of 1918 and the spring of 1919 a deadly strain of influenza claimed the lives of 228,000 Britons. Worldwide the death toll from 'Spanish' influenza was simply unimaginable with between 50 million and 100m dead.

The victims turned blue, then black, drowning in the fluids flooding their lungs.

‘Never since the Black Death has such a plague swept over the face of the world,' commented the Times, 'and never, perhaps, has a plague been more stoically accepted.’

Based on interviews with survivors and the memoirs of doctors and nurses who lived through the outbreak, Living With Enza is the fascinating story of Britain’s ‘forgotten’ pandemic and the continuing scientific effort to unravel the mystery of its origins. For though the Great Flu has receded from public memory, the threat of pandemic influenza has not gone away. According to Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, a new pandemic is a matter of 'when, not if.' ‘We can’t make this pandemic go away, because it’s a natural phenomenon, it will come.’

What the critics say:

'...a vivid account of the pandemic.' - Michael Sargent, Nature.

‘The book succeeds in its aims and is especially recommended for its recovery of the public and medical experience, for its reflections on popular memory, and for its innovative interweaving of past, present and future...The great strength and originality of the book is the way it captures the everyday experience of the disease, from the suffering and neglect of the poor, to the care given to the prime minister, David Lloyd George.' - Michael Worboys, BBC History Magazine.

'...[a] wonderfully evocative narrative...It is to Honigsbaum's credit that he so seamlessly interweaves the scientific and the social history of influenza. His volume teaches us much about the virus and reminds us why influenza is still much in the news.' - The Lancet.

'I read this book at a great pace. The frequent use of first hand accounts gives it a welcome human dimension...I recommend it to anyone who doubts the seriousness of the pandemic flu threat and who has a critical interest in the actions taken by government in our name.' - Patrick Nicholson, Peace News.

‘A wonderful and fitting memorial to the 50 million victims of the 1918 influenza, as well as a deep exploration of human character and science’ - John Oxford, Professor of Virology, Queen Mary’s Medical School.

'Read this book to understand what happened to a country caught up in both a war and a disease that killed millions worldwide, led by variously competent civil servants whose responses, or lack of them, have some worrying parallels with UK pandemic plans today.' - New Scientist.

'A chastening read, but mercifully level-headed' - Financial Times.