From the early modern period, a global archipelago of quarantine stations came to connect the world’s oceans. Often located on islands adjacent to major ports, they multiplied across every large body of water. In the process, great new carceral architectures materialised, many surviving into the present as magnificent ruins – Malta’s Manoel Island, for example. Other quarantine islands have been interpreted in the present by states seeking to sell and tell national stories of triumph over adversity; San Francisco’s Angel Island, or South Africa’s Robben Island, for instance.1 And yet more have been ‘adaptively reused’ as convention centres, exhibition spaces or five-star hotels with a dark tourism edge, as has Sydney’s ‘Q Station’. Such divergent current uses cover a far more consistent past in which these local geographies served remarkably similar purposes, designed to secure both global health and global commerce. Conceptually, geographically and historiographically, this archipelago of quarantine stations links old world and new world histories as surely as the shipping lines and trade routes connected them substantively. And yet scholarship on maritime quarantine tends to remain regionally sequestered. Historians analyse British systems vis-à-vis European systems,2 or quarantine across the Ottoman Empire.3 Historical scholarship on Atlantic and Pacific quarantine has unfolded quite separately again.4 In other instances, it is specific ports, islands or stations that serve as entry points for historians of quarantine.5 The study that best locates quarantine within a global frame and with economic globalisation in mind is Mark Harrison’s Contagion, a sweep across centuries and geographies.6 Yet there is a transoceanic history of quarantine still to be considered, building on the insights of recent maritime histories.
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