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Monday, 28 January 2019

Talk & Exhibition on the Spanish Flu

Montagu Events - Talk & Exhibition on the Spanish Flu
Talk and Exhibition on the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa

The so-called ‘Spanish’ influenza epidemic of 1918 (tellingly dubbed ‘Black October’ by contemporaries in South Africa) was the worst disease episode ever to hit the country. Part of a global pandemic which killed about 3% of the world’s inhabitants in little over a year, in hard-hit South Africa it claimed some 350 000 lives (or 5% of the population) in six weeks in September-October of 1918.

During those dreadful weeks the country struggled to keep functioning in the face of this debilitating disease and consequent deaths. In flu-ravaged cities like Kimberley; Cape Town and Bloemfontein corpse-laden carts trundled through the streets to collect the dead and take them to hard-pressed cemeteries, scenes never seen before or since in the country; in the countryside silence reigned as deaths in kraals and on farms reduced helpless inhabitants to desperate straits.
As a result, a whole generation of flu orphans appeared almost overnight.

Howard Phillips, well-known Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Cape Town and also Chairperson of the Van Riebeeck Society, has written a great number of books and articles on the topic over the years. On Monday evening, 28 January 2019, however, he will launch his latest publication, titled In a Time of Plague – Memories of the ‘Spanish’ Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa at the Montagu Museum.

On the same evening, the Montagu Museum will open an exhibition, focusing especially on the usage of indigenous herbs (and the women using it) to combat the terrible disease. The Old Mission Church served as an emergency hospital at the time, and many people from the town perished in this building.

The talk and book launch by Prof Phillips plus the opening of the Spanish Flu exhibition will take place on -
Monday, 28 January 2019, starting at 18h30 for 19h00.
Refreshments will be available (donations as always welcome).
Please RSVP before 21 January 2019.

For more information, please call the Montagu Museum at 023 6141950 or contact us at

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