The Spanish flu has been a much-discussed topic during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, something killed more than 50 million people and had such a great impact on the world was the subject of many news reports during the time and is a basis for many books and movies.
The Brantford Public Library’s Proquest database allows you to read news reports in the Toronto Daily Star that were written during the 1918 outbreak. A search of the term “Spanish flu” yields 294 mentions between the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1920. Another term that could be searched is “influenza.”
The first mention of “Spanish fu” appeared on Page 8 of the Oct. 2, 1918, edition of The Daily Star. This mention was in relation to Toronto’s first recorded death related to the flu. The article states that, at the time of the death, there were only five other cases of the flu in Toronto. Unknown, the article states, was whether it was the same strain that had recently afflicted the City of Boston.
Two days later, on Oct 4, 1918, a brief article is published stating that the Spanish flu is “sweeping through big cities” and death is occurring in one in 27 cases.
Perhaps the best aspect of reading these articles through the Proquest database, is that people get to see a scanned version of the actual newspaper page. This means, researchers can see other events that were making news at that time. For example, mentions of the Spanish flu are often next to coverage of the First World War. In one instance, there is an article where inventor Guglielmo Marconi predicts that advances in science will lead to a three-day work week.
A well-regarded book on the Spanish flu is John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza, which is the library’s collection.
Laura Spinney’s 2017 book, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World also would be a great choice for anyone wanting to read more about the influenza.
Along with the non-fiction books mentioned above, there are many fictional books that incorporate the 1918 influenza as part of a story’s plot
Visit or call the library if you need assistance using the Proquest database or finding a book.
Library staff can help you find books, ebooks and audiobooks to borrow for free with your library membership.
At Your Library is a weekly column provided by the staff of the Brantford Public Library. Readers requiring more information can visit www.brantford.library.on.ca.