Stacking the Coffins: Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland, 1918-19 (Paperback)
  • Stacking the Coffins: Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland, 1918-19 (Paperback)

Stacking the Coffins: Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland, 1918-19 (Paperback)

Paperback 272 Pages / Published: 11/06/2020
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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.

Publisher: Manchester University Press
ISBN: 9781526154354
Number of pages: 272
Dimensions: 216 x 138 mm


'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

' "Take regular meals to keep the body in peak condition, and if you get home wet or late take a hot glass of lemonade immediately. Inhale eucalyptus from a piece of cotton wool several times a day. Go to bed immediately if you get the flu." Such was the medical advice in the midst of the 1918 influenza epidemic, Ida Milne reports, which would have provided little solace in the face of the worst holocaust of disease in modern times. Milne has produced a fascinating account, based on meticulous and wide-ranging research, including oral histories, of responses to this epidemic in Ireland. The chapter dealing with oral histories is particularly poignant and priceless. In this book, Milne explores the ways in which the epidemic penetrated and impacted on all aspects of Irish society, at a time when the country was going through rapid and sometimes traumatic societal and political changes. The book makes an important contribution to the modern social history of health and medicine and to the history of Ireland in the twentieth century. Throughout she ponders: "why was a disease that dominated the columns of newspapers, was so immersed in the popular psyche, connected to the growing nationalism, a disease which was part of a big international story, left out of Irish historiography for almost 100 years?" Milne admirably remedies that omission.'
Linda Bryder, Professor of History, University of Auckland

'Stacking the Coffins is an important new addition to the social history of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Milne carefully uncovers the ways in which influenza heated a bubbling stew of war, politics, and a failing medical system in Ireland. Stories of suffering told by survivors bring human voices and experiences to the cold count of 20,000 Irish dead. The survivors' vivid memories, and Milne's meticulous mining of archival sources, reveal a forgotten crisis that ruptured families and played a role in reconfiguring twentieth-century Irish society.'
Ann Herring, Professor Emerita, McMaster University

'The first-hand memories of over 25 people who lived through Ireland's "Black Flu" alone make this book moving, dramatic and engrossing reading.'
Howard Phillips, Professor Emeritus, University of Cape Town and author of 'Black October': The Impact of the Spanish Flu Epidemic on South Africa

'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

'This is a very fine book on a fascinating but, until recently, curiously neglected tragedy, which turned out to be the largest acute epidemic disease in twentieth century Irish history. The author traces the progress of the three waves of the Spanish influenza pandemic which moved across Ireland from June 1918 to February 1919, infecting one fifth of the population and killing over 23,000 people. In a splendid piece of research written in readily accessible style she has conducted 50 personal interviews with survivors, mined contemporary government reports, newspapers, memoirs, private letters and academic material from a variety of disciplines to set the experience against contemporary Irish and international affairs. She is especially good in tracing how the haggardly response of overwhelmed local and central government helped to further erode public confidence in the British administration and was skilfully exploited by Sinn Fein in the War of Independence. But Dr. Milne never loses sight of the fact that this was the Irish version of an intensely human global tragedy coming on the heels of Irish losses in the world war and the 1916 Rising.'
Mervyn Busteed, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Liverpool

'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

'Stacking the coffins is a superb new book on how this influenza affected Ireland. [...] I cannot recommend it enough.'
Dr Maurice Gueret, Editor of the Irish Medical Directory

'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

'One hundred years after the influenza pandemic of 1918, scholars continue to assess the medical history, public health response, and social impact of the disease. Milne (Maynooth Univ., Belfast), however, is the first to publish a full-length treatise of the 1918 influenza in Ireland, examining the ways the illness politically affected Ireland's move toward independence; influenced public health decisions and delivery; and radically altered the lives of individual Irish people, still reeling under the trauma of the First World War. Based on Milne's 2009 doctoral dissertation, this text demonstrates an admirable and comprehensive understanding of previous work on the epidemic, including Alfred Crosby's benchmark study America's Forgotten Pandemic (2nd. ed., 2003); Niall Johnson's Britain and the 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic (2006); and Jeffery Taubenberger's genetic research of the virus (included in the anthology The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19, edited by Howard Phillips and David Killingray, 2003). Milne also adeptly handles novel primary research, including a close study of contemporary Irish newspapers and oral history interviews with survivors and family members of victims.'
D. A. Henningfeld, Professor Emerita, Adrian College, Michigan

'Ida Milne has attempted to tell the more complicated, fuller story of how the flu intersected with and influenced the Irish experience of the First World War and the revolutionary movement and how the experience of the flu pandemic was affected by those concurrent events. These three events-war, flu and revolution-left few in Ireland untouched one way or another. Each had its own course and timeline, but for a period- mid-1918 through 1919-they coincided and grew intertwined to a greater or lesser extent. It is this entwining and the story of each that Milne has revealed. This 'triple aim' ensures that the book has appeal for a number of audiences, including those interested in Irish history, those with an interest in the First World War and those interested in this 1918 'Spanish' influenza, one of the greatest disease outbreaks in history (and also for those whose interests cross the boundaries of these). For each of these constituencies, Milne provides a compelling story that is enriched by the presence of the other two narratives. This is a book of many threads and voices, but it never becomes a cacophony as Milne wrangles them into a coherent whole.'
Niall Johnson, Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Social History of Medicine

'In this new book Ida Milne offers a fascinating account of the 1918-19 'Spanish' influenza pandemic in Ireland, which occurred at an "extraordinary" time in Irish revolutionary history. With the Great War coming to an end, and Ireland on the cusp of both a civil war and a war of Independence, Milne strategically uses influenza as a backdrop to shed light on the social, political, medical, and economic structures of Ireland. [...] The extensive research conducted for this study present how influenza attacked "every facet" of Irish society (p. 14). Stacking the Coffins merits high regard amongst current influenza scholarship.'
Triona Waters, Journal of the History of Medicine

'Stacking the coffins persuasively demonstrates how influenza had an impact across Irish society, from the individual to the societal level. It offers a richly textured narrative that represents a significant contribution to the history of medicine in Ireland.'
David Kilgannon, Irish Historical Studies

'Stacking the Coffins' is a thoroughly researched, evocative, and intimate journey into the devastating and often long-lasting impact of the 'Spanish' flu on all aspects of life in Ireland a century ago.'
Maeve Casserly, Women's History Association of Ireland

'This work is incredibly accessible with each chapter taking a unique approach to putting the impact of the pandemic on display. [...] The extensive research conducted for this study present how influenza attacked "every facet" of Irish society (p. 14). Stacking the Coffins merits high regard amongst current influenza scholarship.'
Triona Waters, Journal of the History of Medicine

'Stacking the coffins, is an evocative, poignant and comprehensive history of the Spanish flu's Irish sojourn.'
Anne MacLeilan, surveillance scientist at Connolly Hospital, Converse

'Ida Milne's trailblazing book is a window into one of the greatest trials of modern Irish history. It is a model for others to follow.'
Irish Literary Supplement

As Dr Milne concludes at the end of this excellent book the 1918-1919 has legacies that still endure. This book is essential reading for ophthalmologists and other health professionals.'

Milne's book will be a valuable resource for future historians interested in the patients' view of what she calls the "largest acute epidemic disease in Ireland in the twentieth century" (p. 81).'
Bulletin of the History of Medicine

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