Is the Titanic significant to history


Kevin Perez

This is something that has been bothering me for a long time ever since a person said that the Titanic ''wasn't a big deal'', ''okay, it wasn't as a big deal as it was'' and that ''it didn't do anything ''significant'' for history''. Now, my question, is the Titanic significant to history? A lot people seem to assume that because it didn't do anything ''revolutionary'', it shouldn't be remembered nor does it have a place in history.

I do know why it bothers me, but there's more to it then this. In a review at, there's this guy who gave a Titanic book a rating of 1, simply because he thinks thats it ''bull'' to consider it the most famous shipwreck of all time, and that it wasn't the ship that caused WWI. Let's get this straight, we all know for a fact that when we think of a ship sinking, we think Titanic, so it IS the most famous shipwreck of them all. Lustiania WAS NOT the cause of WWI, it just caused the Americans to join the war. So I do not see how that's a decent reason to say something like that and there's more to history than being the cause of wars, or wars in general.

Do you think Titanic is ''overrated'', ''over-exposed'', and has been ''blown out of poportions''? Seriously, I don't see how its been ''blown of out porportions'', especially when there are many historical events that can be considered to have been ''blown out of poportions'' and recive more attention ''than it deserves'', besides the Titanic. I still don't see why its get singled out, perhaps its because those who hated the movie feel like they need to discredited anything related to it? Including the real thing.

I really hate the fact that there are some people who think Titanic is ''just a piece of steel falling into water'', the wreckage being a ''a rotting piece of carcass'', and that the sinking is just ''a bunch of people falling to death''. Not very good if you ask me. Some people even have the nerve to say that ''whats so amazing about a huge chunck of steele'', yet, you don't see any Titanic fans going to people who have different interests in history saying ''Whats so amazing about (insert here)''.

Somebody at the IMDb message boards stated that there's nothing special about the Titanic, and that if fans believe it is special, its because of ''Jack and Rose''. The member also said that those who believe the ship shouldn't be forgotten and that are interested in the disaster are just ''fans of the film''.

Has it ever occured to these people maybe we find the Titanic to be just ''amazing'' as any other historical tragedy or event? Yes, I know compared to other tragedies this one is minor, but saying that it isn't a big deal because it happened almost a century ago, that its not significant to history, and we should ''get over it!'' because it sunk is really uncalled and uneeded. Especially when somebody said that we should remeber those who deserve to be remembered (as if Titanic's victims shoudln't!). Also, is it really a big deal if we worry about the ships legacy being forgotten? I mean, sureley everyone agrees it DOES deserve to be remembered.

Sorry for this long post guys, but I want you hear what you think as this really bothers me a lot. Sorry for the grammar errors, but I was in a rush writing this, I'll be back to check this thread on the weekends.
Ryan McKeefery

Ryan McKeefery

If it means a lot to you, then it is significant to history.
All my friends used to call me a sad-act for having an interest in something so old, particularly since the film came out. I never let it get to me, and now my friends ask me stuff about it every once in a while - with a genuine interest.
Not a decent subject as a chat up line, though... not speaking from personal experience, or anything.
Regards, Ryan

Mark Baber

Staff member
Now, my question, is the Titanic significant to history?

All things considered, it's not, IMHO.

Lustiania WAS NOT the cause of WWI, it just caused the Americans to join the war.

No, it didn't. The US didn't enter thew war until 1917, almost two years after Lusitania was sunk.

there's more to history than being the cause of wars, or wars in general.

Agreed. And compared to events like the spreads of Christianity and Islam in their respective domains, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, the European settlement of the Americas, the communications revolutions of the 20th century, and the like, Titanic's sinking is a mere footnote, if that.

Do you think Titanic is ''overrated'', ''over-exposed'', and has been ''blown out of poportions''?

In general, no; look at any serious list of the major events of the 20th century, and you'll find that Titanic ranks fairly low, if it appears at all. Is there a relatively small group of people (including, presumably, the membership of this board) who find the event a source of great interest? Of course, but that doesn't elevate it to an event of major historical importance.
Ryan McKeefery

Ryan McKeefery

Yes; I've looked in many encyclopaedei of 20th C history and Titanic doesn't get a look in.
It's all things like the Great War, the Holocaust, Vietmam, etc.
War, to be succinct.
Regards, Ryan.

Teresa Parks

I have to jump in here . . . Yes, Titanic is very significant to history although it means different things to different people. Good, bad or indifferent anything & I do mean anything that can provoke such wide controversy and emotions in all people is worth talking about & very significant. I have been a Titanic buff since 1986 when I had to do a report about it in highschool. I have been hooked ever since! But for the people that haven't known me in that long of a time always assume that it's James Cameron's movie that I'm fascinated with - while I love the movie & Mr. Cameron for making it, I'm very much into the real thing. Kevin, I can empathize with your angry but the people who discredit it or think it's stupid are really just showing their lack of intelligence. Most of the them probably can't even read a book w/o pictures so you really must consider the source. I look upon those people in the same way I look upon the ramblings of a mentally, socially and intellectually challenged individual - I feel sorry for them and go on about my life. They are what they are . . . Titanic will never be forgotten: not even when all the survivors have passed on, nor when the ship and debris are all disinegrated ... Titanic will always be here: in the past, in the present and in the future. Rest assured.

Marilyn Lena Penner

The sinking was an important event when it happened. So many prominent people died: Astor, Guggenheim, the Strauses, etc. Many people in Southampton and elsewhere lost the breadwinner of their families. Margaret Brown got her 15 minutes of fame. U.S. President Taft lost his aide, which perhaps depressed him so that he did not put up much fight against Roosevelt and Wilson in the next election. The Grand Trunk Railway lost its president, Charles Hays. Perhaps his death caused it to decline faster into decline and thus merged it into the Canadian National. Perhaps his death wasn't the reason. Miss Dean's mother took her back to England. Miss Funk said hello to her mother in Heaven instead of saying good bye to her in Pennsylvania. David Sarnoff might or might not have persued a career in radio and become the head of NBC if he didn't catch Titanic's radio transmission and got his name in the papers.

We in 2005 can relate to this human tragedy: the Challenger explosion, Princess Diana's death, and now Hurricane Katrina are like the Titanic sinking in their ways. They all ring bells like "The Power of Nature", "Could we have planned against it?", "Arrogant Hubris", "Love cut short", etc. in our minds and hearts.

Did the sinking change the world? Slightly. The North Atlantic got an ice patrol. Ships had to keep a wireless communication 24/7 (or they at least considered it.) We got a metaphor for what happens to arrogant people or to people who take one risk too many or to companies who put the demand for luxury or for speed over the need for caution and safety. But we haven't changed. People still speed on the highway. People still take it for granted that they will live through a disaster.

To me, Titanic's sinking is a 'significant date in history' because it's a sort of snapshot of what people had and did and how they acted in 1912. They weren't the same during or after World War One, any more than their children or grandchildren weren't the same people in 1945 that they were in 1939.

Other people have other signposts. John Lennon's death is not history to me, but it is to a rock fan. Star Trek means something to one person that The Simpsons or Wayne's World mean to others. For all I know, 9/11 may mean Sept.11, 2001 only to North Americans. Titanic was significant to the Western world in 1912, but not to everyone here and now.
John Clifford

John Clifford

Kevin, just remember some of the lessons that were noted:
1. Lifeboats available for ALL passengers and crewmembers;
2. Mandatory 24-Hour Wireless Operations;
3. Continuous tracking of ice flows, by the International Ice Patrol;
4. MANDATORY lifejacket drills.

Those are a few items, which made the Titanic significant to history. While people will still die at sea, in peacetime, safety at sea has been improved, IMO.

I will have to check on some more changes that were made, when I get home (this is being sent from my work computer).

Jeffrey Beaudry

"Now, my question, is the Titanic significant to history?"

IMO, I've always considered the Titanic disaster to be the beginning of the end of the Edwardian era. So, I would have to say yes, it is significant. I may be wrong, but this is just my opinion.

Bob Godfrey

Titanic is certainly the most famous shipwreck, and arguably has recently become the most famous ship, but fame doesn't necessarily equate with historical significance. Many of the statesmen and warriors, engineers and scientists, pioneers and social reformers who do most to plot the course of history tend not to fire the public imagination. It's easier to sell a book or a film about somebody like Billy the Kid or Jack the Ripper, who made the news but didn't make history. So it is with Titanic. A ship that sinks is more interesting, more emotionally appealing, and more likely to be remembered than one that doesn't. But it's those that didn't sink that quietly proceeded to bring millions of immigrants to the New World and thus truly to change history.

The Great War, the Holocaust and the Vietnam War were 'events' on a grand scale which effected (or ended) the lives of millions and helped to shape the modern World and thus our own lives. The existence of the Titanic, whether or not it had sunk, had no such impact. Those who write general histories deal with events of lasting significance, not those which were merely newsworthy at the time.

I am one of those who believe that Titanic was no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn't make it any less significant to me as a hobby interest. If others don't share my interest that doesn't bother me and it certainly doesn't surprise me. It's a fair bet that many of them have their own passionate interest (and capacity to bore!) in something equally insignificant, like the detailed 'history' of a sport, an area of music or a make of car, for instance. It takes all kinds.
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member

Now, my question, is the Titanic significant to history?

IMHO, no, Titanic is not. Granted, the disaster made front page news all over the world for days and people were fascinated with the latest of what was happening, but it did not alter history in any way. John Jacob Astor, for example was not a huge influence in the stock market. Yes, he owned several railroads and financial institutions, but he just wasn't a major factor. I contributed an article discussing this very same issue, a few months ago.

A lot of lessons were learned which are very noteworthy, as John has already pointed out and laws were drawn up for maritime safety, but if Titanic hadn't struck an iceberg and sank, it would have been another ship and the same laws would have been enacted at some point.

As far as the level of interest goes, I'm with Mark and Bob. Each to his / her own.​
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

>>Now, my question, is the Titanic significant to history?<<

In and of itself? Not particularly. There was quite a bit of fuss at the time, but that's common enough in catastrophic events that manage to achieve a degree of notoriety, and quite a mythos has been built around the ship.

The bare bones fact of the matter is that aside from her sheer size, she was a not especially remarkable trans-Atlantic liner...a second sister in a planned trio of ships...that was sufficiently mismanaged as to lead to a collision with an iceberg and the loss of the ship. She racked up a sobering body count but far worse disasters have happened since then. Ferry accidents in Asia routinely claim hundreds and even thousands of lives and nobody bats an eyelash.

A few lessons were learned from her that have already been touched on, but she was nearly forgotten and probably would have been completely forgotten had not Walter Lord stepped up to the plate with A Night To Remember. The whole event has taken on a life of it's own since then.

Noel F. Jones

Just to garnish what has already been said:

Every shipwreck must advance the knowledge and refine the procedures to some extent, the Titanic did that more than most.

Other than that, the sinking did provide cathartic pulpit-fodder at the time and has given sporadic inspiration to dramatists and movie-makers; but it was Walter Lord’s book which projected it out of the relative obscurity into which it had lapsed (apparently his literary style had mileage). That and the subsequent film.

However, since the latest Hollywood extravaganza it has been the ambition of just about every hack writer that ever was not to let a band wagon roll past un-jumped upon.

For my own part, my visits here are a secret vice which I seek to hide from the industry professionals around me.

John Clifford

John Clifford

I also noted that after the Titanic sank, it was the end of class distinction in filling lifeboats (even while the shipping lines still had the class sections), as well as it being the end of "dismissing ice warnings", or giving them only a "passing notice". After April 14-15, 1912, no ship wanted to duplicate what had happened.

Yes, if Titanic had made it safely to New York, then a later catastrophe would likely have occured.

The name of TITANIC is forever engrained on our consciousness, due to Walter Lord's writings and the discovery of the ship, in 1985.

I will also note that the names of some ships will also be forever remembered by us, but, likely, not by others.

For example: how many people outside of Canada (excepting Salvation Army people) will know about the Empress of Ireland. Same with people knowing about the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy.

There are other "unnamed ships", that inspired a lesson or two, but are relegated, now, to a ship disaster file, somewhere in London, Quebec City, Manila, or Cape Horn.

I remember during a THS-sponsored tour in 1999 our group visited the Maritime Institutes in Rimouski and Levis. During our visit to the Levis facility, we were told the story of a freighter that caught fire off the coast of Quebec in 1979.

What happened was that the crew of this ship was not experienced in proper fire-fighting techniques, so that a minor fire ended up destroying, or seriously damaging the vessel. After that, it became mandatory, at least in Quebec (to my knowledge) that everyone who wished to serve on a ship had to know all the basic fire-fighting and evacuation techniques, even a ship's busboy.

I remember noting the lessons learned (the Institutes even had teenagers learning proper evacuation techniques), but I forgot the name of the ship whose calamity led to all this.

The lessons we have noted and discussed will always be remembered, and should never be forgotten; that should be an important part of history.
Dave Gittins

Dave Gittins

Even in the field of marine safety, the importance of the Titanic disaster is exaggerated. Take the list above.

1. Lifeboats available for ALL passengers and crewmembers. Not so. To this day, passengers and crew must often make do with a mixture of lifeboats and rafts. This is so on famous cruise ships, such as Queen Mary 2.

2. Mandatory 24-Hour Wireless Operations. For many years, not so. The rule originally only applied to passenger ships carrying more than 50 passengers. Many freighters got along with one operator and an alarm system. Many smaller ships were exempt. Even today, the emergency frequencies are abused by crewmen.

3. Continuous tracking of ice flows, by the International Ice Patrol. Yes, but do you know that it was 2002 before it became compulsory for ships traversing the ice region to make use of the IIP's services?

4. MANDATORY lifejacket drills. Yes, but they are like the safety sessions seen on aircraft. Lip service.

Many of the structural 'improvements' advocated in 1912 never were adopted. Most ships today have single shell hull, with a double bottom and a bit of protection round the turn of the bilge, just like Titanic.

I could go on for a long time, but you'll have to wait.