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Atlantic Books for the Holidays

About the Author

Mary Jo Anderson

Books by this Author
- Quarantine, What is Old is New

- Quarantine, What is Old is New

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