The 1918/19 influenza pandemic and Covid-19 in Ireland and the UK

Martin Gorsky, Bernard Harris, Patricia Marsh, Ida Milne

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The global spread of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted inevitable comparisons with the flu pandemic of 1918-20. However, in order for such comparisons to be fruitful, it is necessary to acknowledge the similarities between the two outbreaks and their differences. This paper compares different aspects of the 'Spanish' flu and coronavirus pandemics in Ireland and the UK during the two periods. The first part of the paper provides a general overview, taking account of the nature of the two diseases and the contexts in which they occurred. The following two sections explore the extent to which both outbreaks exposed underlying social and economic inequalities and the measures taken by central and local government, as well as civil society, to combat the spread of disease. The final section examines the extent to which both pandemics highlighted existing failures and sparked demands to 'build back better'.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages44
JournalHistorical Social Research
Issue numberSupplement
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2021


  • 'Spanish' flu
  • coronavirus
  • epidemics
  • inequality
  • health policy
  • reconstruction


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