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We All Expected to Die

Spanish Influenza in Labrador, 1918-1919

By Anne Budgell
Categories: Indigenous Studies, History, Medicine, Newfoundland And Labrador Studies
Series: Social and Economic Studies
Series Number: 82
Paperback : 9781894725545, 392 pages, December 2018

Table of contents

Contents List of Maps | viii
Acknowledgements ix Introduction | 1

1. Labrador — Trackless, Unknown, and Wild | 19
2. “Our People Are Dying Out” | 46
3. The War and the Flu | 82
4. The Centre of Infection | 97
5. Sandwich Bay and Lake Melville, Autumn 1918 | 109
6. “Let ’em Die” | 147
7. The North Coast, Autumn 1918 | 168
8. Hundreds Dead in Labrador, Spring 1919 | 210
9. “In Some Mysterious Manner” | 237
10. Aftermath | 262

Appendix A: “Let ’em Die” Again | 285
Appendix B: The Lists of the Dead | 288

Notes | 306
Bibliography | 357
Index | 365

A harrowing account of loss and survival during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and its devastating impact on Labrador.


  • Winner, Peter Cashin Prize 2018
  • Short-listed, Heritage and History Book Award 2020
  • Short-listed, Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award 2019


At the end of World War I, after four years of unimaginable man-made destruction, a swiftly killing virus travelled the planet. Up to one hundred million people perished in the most lethal pandemic in recorded history, the so-called “Spanish” influenza. More than half those who died were young adults aged between twenty and forty. Nowhere on earth was the flu more deadly than in isolated settlements on the far northeastern coast of North America.

In We All Expected to Die: Spanish Influenza in Labrador, 1918–1919, Anne Budgell reconstructs the horrific impact of the pandemic in hard-hit Labrador locations, such as the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron where the mortality rate was 71%. Using the recollections of survivors, diaries kept at the time, Hudson’s Bay Company journals, newspaper reports, and government documents, this powerful and uncompromising book tells the story of how the flu travelled to Labrador and wreaked havoc there. It examines how people dealt with the emergency, when all were sick and few were well enough to care for others, and how authorities elsewhere refused to provide assistance. The story We All Expected to Die reveals is both devastating and haunting. It is a story of great loss, but also of human endurance, heroism, and survival.


“Anne Budgell's meticulous research. ..provides the essential context that allows us to interpret the statistics and understand the severe and indelible impact of the 1918 pandemic. ”

- Dr. Theresa Tam, Cheif Public Health Officer of Canada

"We All Expected to Die. ..offers an important and accessible reminder of the terrible suffering endured by the people of Labrador. "

- John R. Matchim, The Canadian Historical Review

"We All Expected to Die has elements of the kind of dystopic end-of-time fiction that is fashionable today — but the events in Labrador a century ago involved real people. Their ghosts surround you in Hebron. Budgell's careful reconstruction of the impact of a pandemic is an impressive achievement. "

- Charlotte Gray, Canada's History

"[We All Expected to Die] deserves a wide readership and should be on the shelves in every library in Canada, and the world for that matter. "

- Russell A. Potter, ARCTIC