Understanding The 1918-1920 Cultural Narrative of The Spanish Flu as Told Through The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Garner, Ana C.
Global pandemics have become one of the major health crises that happen to society from time to time. Past occurrences, including disasters and pandemics, are events that we learn from and draw upon to better understand current happenings. One way by which we build and understand historical trends and events, including pandemics, is through press coverage of those events. One significant pandemic in history was the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. This thesis explores the cultural narrative about the Spanish Flu as told through The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal between 1918 and 1920. Through the constant comparison method, three story themes emerged: The Impact on Business, The Origin of the Disease, and Finding the Cure. It was concluded that the overarching narrative was how the Spanish flu impacted businesses and activities, mainly in sports and entertainment. There were no substantive descriptions of the pandemic in press coverage, and most of the reference made to the Spanish Flu was either related to trade and business or the war efforts, which shows how rooted the American society is in capitalism as a cultural narrative.