“Saving Serbia The American Mission and the Typhus Epidemic in Serbia 1915”

Unit for desinfection, Photograph from the Dr Strong's diary, Harward University Press, 1920.

In 2018/19, the Centre for Public History will be implementing the “Saving Serbia. The American Mission and the Typhus Epidemic in Serbia in 1915” project which aims at introducing to the public an important historical event that changed the course of history in Serbia and the world in the period of World War I.

In early 1915, a typhoid epidemic broke out in  Serbia. The country was in a very difficult situation caused by the onset of the World War I, the food shortages and poor hygiene, so the epidemic spread rapidly, causing high mortality among the civilian population. At that moment, due to the lack of hospital staff and medications, Serbia was unable to address this dangerous epidemic.

In order to prevent an epidemic that threatened to break out globally, the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Red Cross organised a mission that was led by Dr Richard Strong, one of the most prominent epidemiologists at the time. The US mission arrived in Serbia in April 1915, and, in cooperation with the authorities in Serbia, brought the situation under control within a matter of weeks, suppressing the epidemic by means of a new methodology that would later be defined as the “sanitary revolution”.

An exhibition will be put up within this project, showcasing, for the first time, archival documents, photographs, newspaper articles and accompanying historical texts depicting this American mission in Serbia as a very important historical event that has remained unknown to the general public but which reversed this difficult situation, preventing a global catastrophe. The audience will have an opportunity to learn about the history of the American Red Cross and the coverage of Serbia in the world media in 1915. A brochure comprising archival materials and historical texts will be presented at the exhibition. The exhibition will also include public guided tours and lectures by historians. The exhibition will be held in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Šabac, Užice and Bor.


The project is being implemented with the support of the US Embassy in Serbia, as part of activities marking 100 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Serbia.