In 1918, the Samoan archipelago was divided between two polities: American Samoa and Western Samoa. Socially, physically and in terms of traditions regarding health, there was little to distinguish their residents, who had been culturally unified, if politically fractious, up until the partition of 1899. By early 1919, Western Samoa was in chaos, however, and moving towards a state of rebellion against the New Zealand administration. At least 24 per cent of the population had died during the post-war influenza pandemic, nearly all between 18 and 50 years of age. The educational, political and religious elites had been destroyed. The colony was in shock, and in mourning. American Samoa did not suffer directly from the 1918 influenza pandemic. In fact, it was one of the very few polities which avoided any influenza infection at all between 1918 and 1920. They were all island states,1 and yet the other islands spared were in isolated corners of the globe, hundreds of miles from the nearest source of infection.2 American Samoa, by contrast, is a short journey from Upolu, the main population centre of the Samoan archipelago and the site of the globe’s highest mortality rate from the 1918 flu. On a clear day, the two islands can be seen from each other’s shores. Strong social and familial ties bound the two colonies; and travel between them was regular, even commonplace. So how did American Samoa, despite such proximity, avoid influenza in 1918?
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Influenza and Quarantine in Samoa
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number