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In a Time of Plague: Memories of the 'Spanish' Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa

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R 456.00

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Howard Phillips, Emeritus Professor of History at UCT, gives a unique contribution to South Africa’s history. Glimpses into medical beliefs of the time as well as religious healers and rituals in this time of crisis. This is a moving account of this tragic event in South Africa’s history.


"The so-called 'Spanish' influenza epidemic of 1918 (tellingly dubbed 'Black October' by contemporaries in South Africa) was the worst disease episode ever to hit the country. Part of the global pandemic which killed about 3% of the world's inhabitants in little over a year, in hard-hit South Africa it claimed some 350,000 lives (or 5% of the population) in six weeks in September-October of 1918. During those dreadful weeks the country struggled to keep functioning in the face of this debilitating disease and consequent deaths. In flu-ravaged cities like Kimberley, Cape Town and Bloemfontein corpse-laden carts trundled through the streets to collect the dead and take them to hard-pressed cemeteries, scenes never seen before or since in the country; in the countryside silence reigned as deaths in kraals and on farms reduced helpless inhabitants to desperate straits. A whole generation of flu orphans appeared almost overnight. This volume graphically captures this short but unprecedented crisis in South Africa's history through the memories of 127 survivors of the epidemic. Recorded on tape and in letters in the 1970s, these evoke the horror of 'Black October', providing unique, first-hand accounts of what these men and women saw and heard, how they coped medically, materially and psychologically and what mark this experience left on their lives. The memories of this very wide array of South Africans vividly evoke what it was like to live in and to live through a time of plague. As one survivor put it, 'That's worse than war.'"

Additional Information

Book Condition  
SKU 9780994720719
Author Howard Phillips
Dimensions N/A
Format N/A
Pages 193
Published Date No
Publisher Van Riebeeck Society, 2018
Language English
Genre Diseases and History
Series n/a

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