Alfred Crosby's work "America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918" is considered the definitive work on the Spanish influenza that spread worldwide in between August 1918 and March 1919. Although this deadly influenza pandemic claimed the lives of over 25 million people, more than the entire population that perished during World War I, it has now largely been forgotten in the collective memories of people. Crosby is able to vividly narrate the spread of the pandemic during the panic-stricken months that it took a grip upon the United States. His book has become extremely popular and is considered one of the classics of pandemic literature. The following review will look to fully assess Crosby's work and its latent legacy.
Crosby's narrative has become extremely popular since the 1980s due to the spread of other infectious diseases. While influenza scares has died out largely due to the advent of modern medicine, the spread of the AIDS virus, Asian flue, and SARS epidemic have cast pandemics into the mainstream consciousness. Crosby's analysis of the pandemic is not only a narrative that describes the event and brings it to life, but also just as importantly it chronicles and explores the curious loss of national memory of this cataclysmic event. His primary argument in the narrative is that "the problem of infectious disease seemed more of an academic than immediate interest." Yet in the 1980s, the influence of other pandemics recast the Spanish flu in a new light.
Crosby suggests within his book that the most apt analogue of the Spanish Flue and in influenza in general is to the AIDS virus. Just like AIDS the medical community has not found an effective method to prevent or control it effectively. The virus can mutate and render flu vaccines developed for one outbreak useless to prevent another. Even vaccines themselves posed a severe risk, the 1976 "swine flu" episode threatened members of the public with Guillan-Barre paralysis, and was blamed upon the vaccine that was suppose to protect them. In this comparison, Crosby maintains that we can learn much from the Influenza pandemic of 1918, because it sheds light on how humanity deals with viral crisis. His argument here is extremely persuasive; he highlights many of the important themes in the history of medicine and disease. Crosby reveals that during the pandemic, the role of nurses were critical in that the major therapy prescribed was "tender loving care," and thus he brings to life the role and attitudes towards healthcare professionals during that era. The extent of his analysis shows that Crosby gives a full and thorough treatment of the disease.
Another one of Crosby's major arguments is that the spread of the disease and the cause of national panic can be attributed to how it was conceptualized to fit into war-time hysteria, such as fears of Germans dropping flu germs. Crosby insists that during this period, the pandemic became a part of daily life, with citizens attending parades in gauze masks. He reveals that it is because of the flu pandemic that the government at the local, state and federal level was able to develop strong health agencies. The Public Health Service administration arose from the Pandemic of 1918 as well. Crosby's primary point in this argument is that the spread of the disease became a part of everyday life, and it was spurred on in a large degree because of external factors. The result of the pandemic in its application to today might have been positive, as it has allowed the government to craft a response to critical epidemics and viral infections. The result of his analysis is that the flu pandemic became a part of national consciousness for a significant period, but then died down…