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- Quarantine, What is Old is New

Halifax and the Lawlor's Island Quarantine Station: 1866-1938

by Ian Arthur Cameron, MD
edited by Mary Jo Anderson
preface by francis Mitchell

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post-confederation (1867-)
list price: $19.95
category: History
published: 2007
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Quarantine, What is Old is New by Ian Arthur Cameron, MD, Historian and medical doctor Cameron has produced a gripping history of quarantine in Canada, the forgotten story of the men and women who worked to save lives and protect the citizens of this land.A story of the early years of immigration to Canada, and of marine transportation with wooden ships sailing reluctantly into the age of steam. It also details significant aspects of the history of Canada, Nova Scotia and Halifax, and recounts the story of contagious disease in the 19th-20th Centuries. But it is much more than the past, dealing with the future of dread diseases we face today, including SARS, West Nile fever, and the feared influenza pandemics, such as those possible with the latest swine flu (H1N1) or potential bird flu (H5N1). Also contains extensive appendices, medical definitions, and is indexed for history and medicine

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Preface Quarantine, What is Old is New begins as a highly descriptive, detailed and definitive history of contagious disease and quarantine practices covering some eighty years in Halifax in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But it is much more than that!

Readers, in addition to gaining an insight into the medical practices and dread diseases of the day, will also encounter a fascinating history of maritime commerce and transportation from the heyday of wooden ships sailing reluctantly into the age of steel and steam. Halifax, then as now, was a focal point for global trade, and this book tells the tale of ships that plied the world’s oceans and seaports, transporting goods and human cargo, along with some of the most devastating and debilitating diseases known to mankind. Lawlor’s Island, and the men and women who worked there, were the first line of defense for Canada.

Quarantine will also provide readers with rather poignant glimpses into the immigrant resettlement history of Canada as seen through eyes of those connected with the historic port of Halifax and Pier 21, the latter Canada’s primary immigration gateway until 1971. As an example, the story of the Doukhobors arrival in Canada at the close of the 19th Century is an account of the interplay between two of the most fascinating characters in the book, Count Sergey Tolstoy and Dr. Frederick Montizambert. Additionally, the historical characters described in the unfolding story of Lawlor’s read much like a list of “who’s who” of Anglo-Celtic heritage in old Halifax, including familiar family names such as Almon, Chisholm, Cameron, Graham, Hayes, Jones, Keith, MacKay, Morrow, Quinn, Stairs, Tupper, Wickwire, and many more. For those interested in conducting further research on this topic or simply wishing to refer to an issue or fact discussed in the book, this publication has been extensively indexed according to a number of parameters, including historical figures connected with Halifax and Lawlor’s Island; medical personnel associated with the Quarantine Service; marine transportation and ships; global seaports; immigration; as well as medical and scientific terminology related to what were known as major and minor diseases subject to quarantine at that time. The latter was and is a moving target as medical science searches and finds answers for current diseases, only to have them replaced by newer ones.1

It is also hoped that this book will provide readers with some important lessons from the past that will inform their future with respect to yet undiscovered forms of disease such as the much anticipated and feared pandemic 2. Should such events come to pass, the concept of quarantine may well be revisited some time in the future. Lastly, Lawlor’s is perhaps the lesser known of the islands in Halifax Harbour, and after the end of the Second World War, the island’s buildings and facilities were no longer required as a quarantine station or as a venereal disease hospital. Within a decade many of the buildings were razed by their federal government owners, precipitating a half-century of decline that continues today. However, there is hope as the a few levels of government and academic researchers have seen value in acknowledging the importance of this place in the history of Canada, Nova Scotia and Halifax. As such the first preliminary archeological survey has recently been completed since the publication of this book and more work is planned. And just perhaps, the old graveyard (see front cover) could then be restored with some dignity and the last unmarked resting place for so many souls appropriately recognized. Hopefully this book has initiated that discussion.3


1, 2. For a detailed account in scientific, but understandable, terms for laymen of the newer viral diseases, including West Nile fever, H5N1 (bird flu), Ebola, SARS, Hendra and other zoonotic diseases transmitted between humans and animals, as well as information on pandemics, read Deadly Contact: How humans and animals exchange disease by David Quammen, National Geographic, October, 2007 pp. 78-105

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Contributor notes

A Brief Biography -Ian Arthur Cameron, MD Born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia, Ian Arthur Cameron received a bachelor of arts (B.A., major in history) from Mount Allison University; M.D. from Dalhousie University; CCFP and FCFP from the College of Family Physicians of Canada. He has practiced medicine in the Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C., Fredericton, N.B., and he has been a Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Mississippi (Jackson) and Mercer University (Macon, Georgia). Since 1979 he has been a Professor of Family Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has given numerous presentations on medical history and medical humanities many of which have been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Canadian Family Physician and Medical Post. President of the Dalhousie Society for the History of Medicine since 1984, Dr. Cameron’s major area of interest is quarantine. He and his wife, Beverley have four daughters.

1. Quarantine is Dr. Cameron’s second major book. The first, a co-authored title, was published in 1988: Camp Hill Hospital: 70 Years of Caring 1917-1987

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Editorial Review

After a long love affair with Lawlor’s Island, clinician/historian Dr. Ian Cameron reveals the ghosts of its medical past. The story is of tragic events and unimaginable hardships, public health successes and failures, remarkable bravery and unforgivable incompetence. As new epidemics threaten to arrive on our shores from around the world, we must learn lessons from the past. This book is an important contribution to medical, public health and maritime history, but it will also fascinate those who love Nova Scotia and Halifax. .....Jock Murray, Professor Emeritus, Dalhousie University

Dr. Ian Cameron has documented an important chapter in the history of Halifax, of Canada, . . . and of medicine. In[chronicling] the birth, life and death of Lawlor’s Island, he has produced the most evocative form of written history, allowing the witnesses to describe their experiences in their own words. [While] the diseases and their circumstances were often horrifying and tragic, the tales of heroism, tragedy, and cruelty are captivating and instructive. . . . This book also provides important and heretofore missing information concerning the early years of immigration to Canada. ..... Ruth M. Goldbloom, O.C., Chair, Pier 21 Foundation

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