ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Influenza Pandemic of 1918

As India battles hard to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to look back and examine how a major pandemic that occured nearly 100 years ago—the influenza pandemic of 1918 or “Spanish flu”—was tackled by the then colonial administration. The challenges encountered are examined, drawing specifically from the experiences of the state of Mysore, considered as one of the well-administered, “progressive” princely states in British India.

Gandhi and the Pandemic

Although the death toll of the 1918–19 Spanish flu in India was immense, it received little critical attention at the time by either the British authorities or Indian nationalists, or later by historians of Indian politics. Strangely, this was also the case with Mohandas Gandhi who had a penchant for making health-related statements and working as a carer of the sick. His reaction to the illness and death around him has been characterised as one of disinterest. His letters and utterances at this time give some clues as to why he may have been numb to what was transpiring around him.
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