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What We Can Learn from 1918 Influenza Diaries

Historians in the News
tags: archives, pandemics, primary sources, influenza



“History may often appear to our students as something that happens to other people,” writes Civil War historian and high school educator Kevin M. Levin on his blog, “but the present moment offers a unique opportunity for them to create their own historical record.”

The work of a historian often involves poring through pages upon pages of primary source documents like diaries—a fact that puts these researchers in a position to offer helpful advice on how prospective pandemic journalers might want to get started.

First and foremost, suggests Lora Vogt of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, “Just write,” giving yourself the freedom to describe “what you’re actually interested in, whether that’s your emotions, [the] media or whatever it is that you’re watching on Netflix.”

Nancy Bristow, author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds Of The 1918 Influenza Epidemic, advises writers to include specific details that demonstrate how “they fit into the world and … the pandemic itself,” from demographic information to assessment of the virus’ impact in both the public and personal spheres. Examples of relevant topics include the economy; political messaging; level of trust in the government and media; and discussion of “what’s happening in terms of relationships with family and friends, neighbors and colleagues.”

Read entire article at Smithsonian

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