Prior to the current pandemic, the impact of the Spanish Flu pandemic 1918-20 was largely neglected in studies of 20th century geopolitics. As the Liberal International Order, whose foundations were laid by statesmen during the height of Spanish Flu, stands at a crossroads, we ask how the confluence of a global pandemic and ‘order making’ was navigated in 1918-1920.
Between 1918-1920, Spanish Flu swept its deadly broom across the planet, infecting up to one third of the world’s population. Recent research estimates the total number of fatalities as between 50-100 million. ‘The Spanish Lady’ appeared during a critical time for the world order, coinciding with the closing stages of World War I, solidification of the United States as a Great Power, and establishment of the League of Nations. Likewise, Covid-19 has emerged at a critical juncture for world politics. This panel discussion reevaluates how this (not so unusual) context influenced geopolitical outcomes, and what can be learned today, as we move into a new (‘post-unipolar’) phase of international politics.
Moderator: Bridget Kendall, Master, Peterhouse College, Cambridge
Margaret MacMillan, Professor of History at the University of Toronto and emeritus Professor of International History and the former Warden of St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford
Laura Spinney, Science journalist and author. Her latest book is ‘Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World’.