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

A+| A| A-

Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Lessons in Tackling a Public Health Catastrophe

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.

This paper is an updated version of an earlier paper, “Public Health Administration in Princely Mysore: Tackling the Influenza Pandemic of 1918”, Sekher, T V, published in India’s Princely States: People, Princes and Colonialism (2007, W Ernst and B Pati [eds], London and New York: Routledge, pp 194–211).

The author is grateful to Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom for funding the research. The facilities and cooperation extended by the archives of the British Library and Wellcome Trust Library at London; Karnataka State Archives, Bengaluru; Divisional Archives, Mysuru; National Archives, New Delhi; and other libraries are acknowledged. The author also thanks the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

When the world and India are battling hard to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to look back and examine how a major pandemic that occurred nearly a century ago, the influenza pandemic of 1918, or Spanish flu, was tackled. This pandemic killed around 12 million people in India alone, more than in any other country. The challenges encountered by the then administration in colonial India are examined, drawing specifically from the experience of the state of Mysore, which was considered one of the better-administered “progressive” prin­cely states in British India. Census data and archival records, available both in India and England, are used to make a historical analysis of the administrative challenges in handling the pandemic.

Influenza Mortality in India

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 31st May, 2021
Back to Top