Join distinguished historian Mark Humphries at the Laurier Military History Speaker Series as he celebrates the release of his most recent book The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health in Canada (UTP, 2013).

The event is sponsored and hosted by the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS) at Wilfrid Laurier University (232 King Street North, Waterloo, ON). It will take place on Wednesday, November 19th at 7:00pm, and admission is FREE.


Mark Humphries

“Hunting a Killer: Searching for the Origins of the 1918 Flu”

Nov. 19th, 7:00 pm

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Tracking down the origin of a killer virus can be a painstaking, difficult process. They often behave like shadowy stalkers, emerging in fits and starts, learning to kill over time and space before they actually begin to spread in a significant way.

The-Last-Plague-HumphriesThe deadliest epidemic in history was the so-called “Spanish Flu” of 1918 which killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. But even after nearly 100 years of research, the virus’ origin site remains hotly debated. While the mid-western United States, France, and China have all been identified as potential candidates by medical researchers, the military context for the pandemic has been all but ignored. Conversely, military historians have paid little attention to a deadly disease which underlines the important relationship between battlefield and home-front.

In this talk, historian Mark Humphries will embark on a detective’s search for the origins of the deadliest virus in history, a journey that will take us from China, to Canada, to the battlefields of France and Flanders. Based on new research in British and Canadian archives that was recently published in the journal War in History and profiled in National Geographic Magazine, Humphries reveals that the 1918 flu most likely emerged first in China in the winter of 1917–18, diffusing across the world as previously isolated populations came into contact with one another on the battlefields of Europe. Ethnocentric fears—both official and popular—facilitated its spread along military pathways that had been carved out across the globe to sustain the war effort on the Western Front.

Mark Humphries is the Director of the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS) and the Dunkley Chair in War and the Canadian Experience at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has published five books and more than a dozen articles on the medical, social, and operational history of the Great War. His most recent book is The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health in Canada (UTP, 2013).


The Laurier Military History Speaker Series is conducted as part of the LCMSDS’ mandate to make the latest scholarship in Canadian military history available in an accessible format to Canadians, and has been running for over two decades. The Series runs each Fall and Winter, featuring a total of six historians throughout the calendar year. Below is our latest schedule as well as information on the most upcoming event.

Our events are hosted at 232 King St. N, Waterloo, ON. Admission is free and talks begin at 7:00pm. To receive e-mail notification of each speaker in advance of the event date, please subscribe to our free newsletter.

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