Reflecting on the 1918 Flu Pandemic in the Wake of COVID-19

In 2018, Defining Moments Canada marked the centenary of the 1918 flu pandemic with the launch of a website full of historical and educational resources and the Recovering Canada contest, which celebrated innovative digital classroom commemorations.

Two years later, that work has taken on new meaning as classrooms are forced to go digital and people everywhere confront a new global pandemic, unprecedented in our lifetimes.

Across Canada, our historians and teachers are rising to the occasion: showing us the lessons that history can teach us and using history to help their students confront the present.

In addition to our already existing flu resources, we’ll be curating a list of articles, educator resources, and media that may be useful and interesting to you. If there’s something in particular you’re looking for, let us know – we may be able to find it!

If you have something you’d like to share, please send us a note at

Best of luck to all teachers and educators embarking on a new digital education journey!

On our own website, explore the 1918/1919 flu pandemic historical content, including themed articles, microhistories, and a storymap. We have updated our Flu 101 article to be a general primer on pandemics, from the perspective of a world with COVID-19. Our resources for teaching the flu can serve as an entry point to help students think about the unprecedented circumstances they’re living in now as a historian. You can find more flu pandemic resources online courtesy of the McMaster Youth and Children University and the Nova Scotia Museum. If you want something to listen to while self-isolating, we recommend the Going Viral podcast – part scientific detective story, part historical inquiry, this podcast rediscovers the experience of the 1918/1919 flu pandemic. Going Viral takes listeners to the scene of a viral crime and in the process recovers the experience of the world’s deadliest virus, which is 100 years old. If the world were haunted by another devastating pandemic, how would we cope?

Check out the winning project from our Recovering Canada project: Coordination, Capacity Building, and Communication: The Spanish Flu in Toronto, and read about the leading educator, Katy Whitfield, and her work on that project. Whitfield has continued this work into COVID-19, developing a curation and record-keeping digital project for this pandemic called Stories of Self-Isolation. She wrote about the project for OHASSTA, and you can access the Google Form and more information here.

With further thought to how students will remember their experience in this historical moment, Irish historian Ida Milne used her experience as a flu expert to share thoughts on how we should be documenting and recording this current pandemic. While American, this “Journal of a Plague Year” hosted on the Omeka platform is an interesting example of what people are adding to the history.

Matt Henderson, a Governor General’s Award–winning educator from Manitoba, has incorporated content from the Defining Moments Canada website into a practical program for online learning. He wrote about this work for CBC, emphasizing the need for caution and mindfulness when developing such projects.

Neil Orford, another Governor General’s Award–winning educator and our project leader, spoke with Samantha Cutrara about how the 1918 flu pandemic can be used to help students better understand and interpret current news about COVID-19.

Esyllt Jones, a Canadian historian of health and disease, recently wrote about the implications of the 1918/1919 flu pandemic at Active History, where she also wrote an article as part of a special flu series in 2018.

The University of Northern British Columbia’s Northern BC Archives has created a local primary-source-analysis teaching resource regarding the 1918 epidemic in the Prince George area. The resource is built around a wealth of primary documents, supported by lessons and learning tools.

Active History and Canada’s History have also collected lists of resources to help teachers teach pandemic content:

Active History – Learning from Past Pandemics: Resources on the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic in Canada

Canada’s History – Teaching COVID-19

Many journalists and historians have spoken in the media about the flu pandemic and COVID-19. We will keep the list below updated as we find new pieces.

For more pieces focused on the 1918 flu pandemic written before COVID-19, check out the list below.

If you have something you’d like to share, please send us a note at

At this time, we’re only able to offer this list in English, although we will include French resources as we are made aware of them. If you’re interested in curating a French-language list, please contact