“A Thorough Study of the Spanish Influenza”: How Japanese Party Politics and Ministerial Conflicts Reduced the Pandemic

“A Thorough Study of the Spanish Influenza”: How Japanese Party Politics and Ministerial Conflicts Reduced the Pandemic


  • Journal title: International Journal of Korean History
  • ISSN: 1598-2041 (print) 2508-5921 (online)
  • Publisher: Korea University, Center for Korean History
  • Country of publisher: korea, republic of
  • Date added to EuroPub: 2018/May/12

Subject and more

  • LCC Subject Category: History
  • Publisher's keywords: Japanese Empire, Spanish Influenza, Infectious Disease Prevention, Party Politics, Medical Inspection
  • Language of fulltext: english
  • Full-text formats available: PDF


    Juhee Kang



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When the Spanish Influenza hit Japan from 1918 to 1920, it revealed deep cleavages within the governmental ministries as well as in the scientific community. It posed an incomprehensible problem while causing massive demographic damage that the existing system of emergency protocols could contain. To redress the situation, in 1920, Matsushita Teiji, a former physician and a non-partisan member at the 43rd House of Representatives, proposed to establish a research institute dedicated to the study of the flu. The proposal resulted in the formation of a special committee with most of its discussants prominent members of the scientific community. Yet, over the five meetings the committee held, the committee reduced its mission from building an institute to conducting “a thorough study.” The catastrophe, comparable to a natural disaster worsened by the lack of a preventive system, was rendered into a social problem that merely required a “study” to find solutions. By reconstructing the skirmishes at the committee meetings and the relationships among the discussants, this paper shows how the reduction took place within the context of 1920s’ party politics and the bureaucratic system managing medical science. Contrary to the façade of structural stability that some historians and itself promoted, the Japanese state in the story of the Spanish Influenza exhibits a wobbly amalgam of fragmentary party interests and incoherent ministerial authorities.

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