Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Most studies of the 1918 “Spanish” influenza pandemic have examined the disease as a local or regional phenomenon, emphasizing its demographic and social impacts but suggesting that its long-term effects were limited. This dissertation analyzes flu as a national and transnational event that must be placed within a broader context. Using archival sources from Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, as well as newspapers, periodicals, and government documents, the author argues that the pandemic did indeed have a significant impact on the relationship between government and society and Canadian public health policy. Before the 1918 pandemic, although Ottawa played a more significant role in public health than is sometimes thought, the national government limited its efforts to protecting Canada’s borders from epidemic disease. The 1918 influenza pandemic challenged this conventional interpretation of the role of government. Disaffection arose during the pandemic from conflicts between military and civilian officials and an ineffectual federal response to the disease. In the autumn of 1918, Ottawa created a federal Department of Health for the first time to redress popular grievances. This signalled a realignment of the central government’s priorities and for the first time defined individual health as a national interest. The pandemic experience thus highlights the interconnectedness of foreign and domestic policy, war and society, and epidemics and social change. It thus presents a significant critique of the existing literature while opening up new avenues for scholarship. It engages with international scholarship by iii presenting a new origins theory for pandemic influenza and places the Canadian experience within a larger international context.



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