In 1982 we characterized the antigenic sites of the haemagglutinin of influenza A/PR/8/34, which is an influenza strain of the H1 subtype that was isolated from humans in 1934, by studying mutants which escaped neutralization by antibody. Four antigenic sites, namely Cb, Sa, Sb and Ca, were found to be located near the tip of the trimeric haemagglutinin spike. Based on the sequence of the haemagglutinin of the 1918 Spanish influenza, we can now specify the extent of divergence of antigenic sites of the haemagglutinin during the antigenic drift of the virus between 1918 and 1934. This divergence was much more extensive (40%) than the divergence (20%) in predicted antigenic sites between the 1918 Spanish influenza and an avian H1 subtype consensus sequence. These results support the hypothesis that the human 1918 pandemic originated from an avian virus of the H1 subtype that crossed the species barrier from birds to humans and adapted to humans, presumably by mutation and/or reassortment, shortly before 1918.