Tag Archives: Albert Marrin

The flu to end all flus

8 Nov

Just as we mark the 100th anniversary of The Great War this year, we also mark the 100th anniversary of the flu pandemic of 1918. In Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918,  Albert Marrin deftly shows how the two world issues are connected.

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Publisher’s Summary: In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people–one-third of the global population at the time–came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

Marin also does an excellent job explaining the science behind the flu and research into it. I now finally understand what they mean when they call it an H1N1 flu! He talks about recent flu pandemics readers might actually have seen, though they might not have experienced directly.

All in all this is an interesting read that looks at the medical and social implications of the flu.

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Non-fiction Sunday

22 Jun

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Here is an incredible pair of books:  A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin and Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker.

In A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery,  Marrin has not only written a biography of John Brown, but he also offers historical background on slavery in general and how it manifested itself in the US. We learn of John Brown’s relationship with abolitionists and his radicalization. And all this is set against the backdrop of  the years before the Civil War. An excellent addition to US history collections, the book has a substantial number  of photos,  illustrations and artwork from the period, all of which are well captioned, as well as notes, a bibliography for further reading and an index.

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker is history and geography, mingled with astronomy, math, politics and religion. I think of the line as a Civil War issue, but its history stretches back to the beginnings of the United States, when settlers came to escape religious persecution in England. It continues through property disputes between  the pens and Calverts ,until Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon are called upon to survey the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. This is a tough read at times and might be best suited for high school students.It is not as dramatic or exciting as  Volcano, but definitely interesting and worth reading.

 

Jone Rush MacCulloch

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