The Great Influenza

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The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
AuthorJohn M. Barry
PublishedNew York, New York
PublisherViking Press
Publication date
Media typeprint

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (originally subtitled The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History) is a 2004 nonfiction book by John M. Barry that examines the 1918 flu pandemic, one of the worst pandemics in history. Barry focuses on what was occurring in the United States at the time and attempts to place it against the background of American history and within the context of the history of medicine.[1] The book describes how the flu started in Haskell County, Kansas, USA, and spread to the U.S. Army training camp Camp Funston, Kansas, USA, and around the world through troop movements during World War I.


A 2004 Journal of Clinical Investigation review said that the book was "well conceived, well researched, and extremely well written" targeting a broad audience-physicians, scientists, medical students, and history buffs.[1] Barry Gewen of The New York Times praised it saying "He is a good teacher, in part because he assumes that his readers don't know anything. He explains the technical stuff clearly, with nice, homey analogies".[2]


In the summer of 2005, President George W. Bush read the book while on vacation at his ranch in Crawford.[3] His study would later set forth plans for the federal government to prepare for future pandemics in a November 2005 speech.[4]

In 2020 the book experienced a surge in popularity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.[5]


  1. ^ a b Palese, Peter (15 July 2004). "The great influenza The epic story of the deadliest plague in history". Journal of Clinical Investigation. 114 (2): 146. doi:10.1172/JCI22439. ISSN 0021-9738. PMC 450178.
  2. ^ Gewen, Barry (14 March 2004). "Virus Alert". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  3. ^ Mosk, Matthew (5 April 2020). "George W. Bush in 2005: 'If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare'". ABC News. Retrieved 5 April 2005.
  4. ^ Charatan, Fred (12 November 2005). "Bush announces US plan for flu pandemic". BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). 331 (7525): 1103. doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7525.1103-b. PMC 1283304. PMID 16282397.
  5. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers". New York Times. 17 May 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2020.

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