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36 Historically Speaking · September/October 2008 late into a lethal pandemic in 2008. Would they perhaps again be searching for an ultimate cause beyond nature? Certainly the initial responses to the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s suggest that they would. Howard Phillips is a professor in the department of historical studies at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of Black October: The Impact of the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 on South Africa (The Government Printer, 1990) and co-editor with David Killingrqy of The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19: New Perspectives (Routiedge, 2003). (All translations into English in die text are by die author) ' De Kerkbode, November 7, 1918, 138; Het KerkMad, November 1, 1918, 1. 2 De Kerkbode, October 17, 1918, 140. ' Handelingen van de Zeste Vergadtring van den Road der Ned Genf. Kerken in Zuid Afrika, 1919, 37. 4 Gereformeerd KerkMad, November 1918, 160. 5 Michael Barkun, Disaster and the Millennium (Yale University Press, 1974), 45. • Robert R. Edgar and Hilary Sapire, African Apocalypse: The Story of Nonte/ha Nkwenke, a Twenietb-Century South African Prophet (Ohio University Center for International Studies and Witwatersrand University Press, 2000), ch. 1; Bengt Sundkler, Zulu Zum and Some Swasri Zionists (Oxford University Press, 1976), ch. 4. ' University of the Witwatersrand Library, Historical and Literary Papers Division, AB 186 (Archbishop W.M. Carter Letters ), Carter to Lord Wenlock, AU Saints Day, 1918. • Church Chronicle, November 28, 1918, 456-467. ' Daily Dispatch, February 3, 1919. " De Kerkbode, October 31, 1918, 1034. " Cape Times, October 26, 1918. " De Kerkbode, October 31, 1918, 1035. " In Memoriam. Memorial Servicefor Members of the Jewish Community Who Died during the Epidemic. Held in the Great Synagogue, Cape Town, 24 November 1918, (Cape Town Hebrew Congregation , 1918), 6. 14 Cape Archives, Cape Town: CMT 3/872, 6Ie 638.1, Annual Report of Transkei Division of South African Police for 1918, 4. '» Cape Archives, Cape Town: CMT 3/942, 6Ie 820, SolicitorGeneral , Grahamstown to Secretary for Native Affairs, July 18, 1919 enclosed in Secretary for Native Affairs to Chief Magistrate Transkei, July 28, 1919. Religion and Epidemic Disease DuaneJ. Osheim John Snow's tracking of cholera in 19th-century London and Robert Koch's subsequent identification of vibrio cholerae as die disease 's cause can stand as markers of the transformation in our understanding of epidemic disease, and by extension of the space left for religion in modern medicine. The widespread introduction of antibiotics after the Second World War seemed to validate the insights about illness and health implicit in epidemiology and bacteriology. In a previous work Andrew Cunningham observed that since the rise of the laboratory, the very definition of a disease has been based on a microbial analysis rather than a symptomatic one.1 In diis respect, Cunningham argues, we cannot compare ancient and modern diseases. And yet, David Arnold's analysis of smallpox in India and Howard Phillips's discussion of the religious response to the Spanish Flu in South Africa, both of which occurred during this period of revolution , should give pause to those who believe that the experience of epidemic disease in the past half millennium should be read as a narrative of modernization and secularization. Secularization is implicit in Cunningam's account , but Samuel K. Cohn, Jr. perhaps has put the thesis most forcefully. For example, he has argued that in the 15th and 16th centuries, chroniBroadside , Mexico City, 1910. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-DIG-ppmsc-04798). clers and doctors came to believe that they understood plague and had no need for religious explanations . "God slips into the background," Cohn writes.2 He rejects the idea that the medieval plagues led to a retreat into religious dogma—at least after the initial experience of the Black Death. Chroniclers and doctors may not have actually understood what they were observing, but they believed they did. Cohn describes Europeans in the 15th century as generally "[mjoving away from utter despair, stargazing, and prayers to God."1 Cohn is surely correct when he suggests that attitudes toward epidemic disease changed, but the transformation he describes seems too stark, especially in the case of religious ideas and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 36-37
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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