‘BLACK OCTOBER’ 1918:

THE SPANISH FLU EPIDEMIC IN SOUTH AFRICA

Venue: Catholic Church Hall
Date: 18 March 2019 @ 4 pm

This lecture will focus on South Africa’s worst health crisis ever, the Spanish flu epidemic, which, in the space of 6 weeks in October/November 1918, killed about 350,000 South Africans, i.e. some 6% of the entire population.

Part of a global pandemic which carried off 50 million+ people around the world in 1918-19, the Spanish flu was brought to South Africa by soldiers returning from service in World War I. The lecture will trace how and why the epidemic rapidly spread throughout the land, paralysing daily life and in effect putting the country under siege as it struggled to cope with scores of sick and dying people. Responses to this all-engulfing crisis will be examined across the board, along with its many and varied consequences in both the short and long term. Finally, the lecture will raise questions about how ‘Black October’ has or has not been remembered 100 years later.

Emeritus Professor Howard Phillips was on the staff at UCT for 40 years, where he taught, inter alia, medical history in both the Faculties of Arts and Medicine. His research on the Spanish flu began in the late 1970s and he has written several books and many articles on it. His latest is In A Time of Plague: Memories of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa which was published in 2018, to coincide with the centenary of ‘Black October’.