Stacking the Coffins : Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland, 1918-19 by Ida Milne (free download) The 1918-19 influenza epidemic killed more than 50 million people, and infected between one fifth and half of the world’s population.
It is the world’s greatest killing influenza pandemic, and is used as a worst case scenario for emerging infectious disease epidemics like the corona virus COVID-19. It decimated families, silenced cities and towns as it passed through, stilled commerce, closed schools and public buildings and put normal life on hold. Sometimes it killed several members of the same family.
Like COVID-19 there was no preventative vaccine for the virus, and many died from secondary bacterial pneumonia in this pre-antibiotic era. In this work, Ida Milne tells how it impacted on Ireland, during a time of war and revolution. But the stories she tells of the harrowing impact on families, and of medicine’s desperate search to heal the ill, could apply to any other place in the world at the time. — .
‘Long in the making, this is the definitive study of a major but largely neglected disaster that ravaged Ireland a century ago. Milne tells the story with empathy, objectivity, and flair. She is thorough and convincing on the Great Flu’s peculiar demography and on its chronology and geography, and excellent also on how officialdom tried to cope with the crisis and on how the politics of the day influenced the discourse around it. A real highlight is the chapter on the oral history of the Flu, which includes interviews with a few centenarians! A very fine book on an important topic.’ Cormac O Grada, author of Ireland: A New Economic History and Famine: A Short History.’This book is a useful addition to the growing literature on the 1918-19 influenza pandemic as it affected Ireland. The author makes good use of hospital, school and prison archives to deepen our understanding of institutional responses, while her interviews with elderly survivors add to the oral history of this event, and the histories of emotion and memory.’Geoffrey Rice, author of Black November: the 1918 influenza pandemic in New Zealand and Black Flu 1918: the story of New Zealand’s worst public health disaster
‘Recent years have seen a revival of public and scholarly interest in the global devastation wrought by Spanish influenza in the wake of the Great War. Integrating social, medical and political perspectives, Ida Milne’s compelling study provides an authoritative account of the pandemic’s calamitous impact during a period of remarkable upheaval in Ireland.’Fearghal McGarry, Professor of History, Queen’s University Belfast
‘This is a welcome addition to historical scholarship on Influenza. A compelling and thoughtful social history, it uses newspaper accounts, reports from public health officials, and hospital records to situate the Irish story of the Great Flu in a well-established international historiography. Subsequent chapters focus on the uniquely Irish experience of the pandemic, situating the crisis against the rising tide of Irish nationalism. It skilfully combines quantitative and qualitative accounts, from statistics to oral history, to reveal how both sectors of society and individual people were indelibly marked by the “Black Flu” a century ago.’Sasha Mullally, Professor of History, University of New Brunswick
‘Milne brilliantly reports on interviews she has done with survivors or with the families of people who died in the pandemic. Her material, collected in 2006 is unique, and gives an understanding of the contemporary suffering and long-lasting pain associated with bereavement that cold statistics cannot give.’Svenn-Erik Mamelund, Research Professor, Oslo Metropolitan University
‘The Irish part of the disease’s global history has long been overlooked, as have the experiences of the families and communities it afflicted. By telling their stories, Milne’s thorough book makes an important contribution to our social and medical history.’Christopher Kissane, The Irish Times
‘Stacking the Coffins is an excellent and very accessible study of a crisis that can be over shadowed in hindsight by the drama of war and political upheaval, but which had a profound impact on those who lived through it. By taking a genuinely holistic approach, it illuminates much besides its subject matter. It is a study of a society in the grip of a crisis and, as such, offers a significant and distinctive contribution co an understanding of Irish life in a period usually defined by its revolution.’John Gibney, Books Ireland.