The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.
Ah-chew! (Sniffle, Sniffle) - the pneumonic influenza pandemic of 1919
Today on 2SER Breakfast, Lisa and Tess talked about the pneumonic influenza pandemic of 1919 (aka the Spanish flu) - a world-wide pandemic that hit Sydney 100 years ago in February 1919. More people died from the flu around the world than from WW1 - but it's been largely forgotten. Dr Peter Hobbins makes the point, 'In fact, with ‘Spanish flu’ killing 15,000 Australians in less than a year, its morbid impact was approximately the same as the annual death rate for the Australian Imperial Force over 1914–18.' The impact in Sydney was massive. There were 9,817 cases reported in metropolitan Sydney, and 3,902 people died. In other words, nearly 40% of people who caught the flu in metro Sydney died. That's a deadly flu. The influenza pandemic affected every Sydney community. It was frightening, disruptive, and tragic. It took away breadwinners as well as the elderly and children. Pregnant women also had a high fatality rate. It's hard to imagine how it must have felt being in Sydney at this time - war weary, with so many families in mourning for loved ones lost at war and then at home from the pandemic. For too long, the pneumonic influenza pandemic has been a largely forgotten part of Sydney's history. But no more. On the centenary of the pneumonic influenza pandemic, the stories of suffering and stoicism are being remembered. To read in more depth about the influenza pandemic's impact in New South Wales, head to the Royal Australian Historical Society's website to view their resources: An Intimate Pandemic: The Community Impact of Influenza in 1919. The RAHS also has an ongoing project for people to research the impact of the Spanish flu in their community and to upload their stories to the website. Dictionary author and friend Dr Peter Hobbins has been on tour around the state sharing the historical sources connected with this extraordinary moment in Australia's history, and you can read his piece about it on The Conversation here. He's also giving talks about the history and impact of the pandemic on Sydney, and has one coming up on 5 March with the Harbour Trust (details here). You can read about this pandemic and other epidemics that hit Sydney in our article on Epidemics on the Dictionary here too. Dr Lisa Murray is the Historian of the City of Sydney and the former chair of the Dictionary of Sydney Trust. She is a Visiting Scholar at the State Library of New South Wales and the author of several books, including Sydney Cemeteries: a field guide. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity. Thanks Lisa! You can follow her on Twitter here: @sydneyclio Listen to Lisa & Tess here, and tune in to 2SER Breakfast on 107.3 every Wednesday morning at 8:15-8:20 am to hear more from the Dictionary of Sydney.