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Social Science Disease & Health Issues


Life and Death at William Head Station, 1872-1959

by (author) Peter Johnson

Heritage House Publishing
Initial publish date
Nov 2013
Disease & Health Issues, Infection Control, History, Post-Confederation (1867-), Emigration & Immigration
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2013
    List Price

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Winner (third place), 2014 BC Historical Federation Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing



Vancouver Island in the late nineteenth century was a major port of entry for people from all walks of life. But for many, the sense of hope that had sustained them through rough sea voyages came to an abrupt halt as soon as they reached land. Quarantined is the heart-wrenching true story of the thousands of forgotten people who arrived on our shores only to be felled by disease, in an era when medical care was unsophisticated at best and attitudes toward the poor and the sick were often narrow minded. It is about the struggle to establish a federally funded quarantine station, which, when it was finally established, became as significant and as longstanding as Grosse Ile in Quebec, Lawlor’s Island in Halifax, and Ellis Island in New York.


At its core Quarantined is a cautionary tale about the exploitation of the sick and the results of government neglect and lack of commitment to pressing national health-care issues affecting the poor and disenfranchised. It is a story that has as much relevance today as it did more than a hundred years ago.

About the author

Peter Johnson has taught history, English, and creative writing in high schools and colleges in Canada for over thirty-five years. He has written several books on BC maritime history, including Glyphs and Gallows: The Rock Art of Clo-oose and the Wreck of the John Bright; Voyages of Hope: The Saga of the Bride-Ships; Quarantined: Life and Death at William Head Station, 1872–1959; and, with John Walls, To the Lighthouse: An Explorer’s Guide to the Island Lighthouses of Southwestern BC. He has also written and directed a documentary film on Lake Winnipeg, which was shown on CBC television, and published interpretive articles on Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and George Orwell’s 1984. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Peter Johnson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Sometimes grim, sometimes funny, and sometimes critical of the officials who shirked their duties, Johnson’s account brings a fascinating piece of history to vivid life." —Nelle Oosterom, Canada's History

"Quarantined is rich in detail about the station, and includes the context that makes it relevant today, when its history is hidden behind prison walls." —Times Colonist

“This is a detailed, well-researched history that does not require the reader to have any prior knowledge of quarantine stations and their development. Quarantined will appeal to a popular audience as well as historians and maritime scholars.” —Amanda Lanum, The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord

"This engaging book provides both a history of the William Head Quarantine Station near Victoria, BC and an exploration of the practice of quarantine." —BC Books for BC Schools, 2014-15

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