Black November: The 1918 influenza pandemic in New Zealand

Black November The 1918 influenza pandemic in New Zealand

Geoffrey W. Rice

(Out of print but available as an ebook)

October 2005
328pp, hardback
260 x 190mm, B&W photos throughout
ISBN: 978-1-877257-35-3

2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards: Finalist, History Category

How would you feel if you woke one morning to find your partner lying dead beside you, not just still and cold, but their skin turned purple-black? Or if your neighbour’s children came to ask for food because their parents had been ‘asleep’ for two days?

Too horrible to think about? Yet such things happened all over New Zealand in November 1918 when the country was swept by the so-called ‘Spanish’ influenza pandemic.

This book details New Zealand’s worst public health crisis, and its worst natural disaster: over 8,500 New Zealanders died from influenza and pneumonia in just six weeks. Nearly a quarter of the victims were Maori, who died at seven times the death rate of European New Zealanders.

Why did the bodies turn black? Why were Maori more at risk than the rest of the population? Why did the 1918 flu kill mostly young adults in the prime of life? Why did more men die than women?  How did towns, neighbourhoods and households cope with the flu? What lessons can we learn from 1918 for any future flu pandemic?

These are just a few of the many questions answered in this fascinating book. First published in 1988, Black November now has three new chapters to bring it up to date, over forty first-hand eyewitness accounts, and over 200 photographs and cartoons, many here published for the first time.

Dr Geoffrey Rice has recently retired as Professor of History at the University of Canterbury. His main fields of academic research included the social history of medicine and eighteenth-century British foreign policy. His two-volume biography of the Fourth Earl of Rochford (1717–81), British diplomat and statesman, was published in 2010. He has also published the illustrated histories Christchurch ChangingLyttelton: Port and Town and All Fall Down: Christchurch's lost chimneys with Canterbury University Press.