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Australian university and medical school life during the 1919 influenza pandemic

James Waghorne (Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 23 October 2020

Issue publication date: 1 December 2020




This article examines the impact of the 1919 influenza pandemic on the life and culture of Australian universities, and the curious absence of sustained discussion about the crisis in university magazines. It considers two contexts, from the perspective of the general university population, and from the particular focus of medical students.


The primary source for this analysis is based on detailed reading of university magazines across three universities, as well as other primary and secondary literature. The article was written during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which has limited access to some other magazines held in library collections, but the corpus of material is more than sufficient.


This article shows that the pandemic further deferred the resumption of university life after a hiatus during the First World War. The failure to identify the causal agent limited technical discussion in medical school magazines.


This is one of the first dedicated studies of the effect of the 1919 influenza pandemic on Australian universities. It joins a growing body of work considering the effect of the influenza on different community groups.



Funding: The research came from Australian Research Council DP160101109.Thank you to Gabrielle Kemmis, who provided research assistance.


Waghorne, J. (2020), "Australian university and medical school life during the 1919 influenza pandemic", History of Education Review, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 215-228.



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