Need Source Help With A Level Coursework; Any Advice Much Appreciated!


wdeasun

Member
Sep 12, 2016
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Hi all!

I'll be undertaking my A-Level history coursework this March, the objective of which is to tackle a controversial subject (IE: Titanic's foundering - in which I am well versed), bring forth conflicted views on the causes, and form my own opinion. I've got 10 years of general research and in depth knowledge under my belt - however, I've ran into problems. I've got a massive collection of books and documents containing sources and figures (including her wall charts and a full list of contemporary recounts from crew and passengers alike), however, to make this coursework worth its marks I need books/written materials wherein two historians vehemently disagree with one another on some facet of her sinking.

The question is 'Poor Design Contribute to Loss of Life Aboard Titanic. Do You Agree?' & the facets I'm covering are:
  • Design Flaws
  • Edwardian Social Class
  • Human Error
  • Rules of Sea
Any suggestions? Any books which particularly argues a certain point? Any controversial texts?

Regards,
Will
 

wdeasun

Member
Sep 12, 2016
5
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Cornwall, England
There were no design flaws
I think it's rather naive to assume she was flaw-free, especially considering we are aware that rather significant flaws contributed to the vessel's loss (the watertight compartments weren't actually watertight - their boundaries fell too low, the steel was a weak and cheaper compound, her rivets were weak, etc). Although, I know for a fact that I don't intend to blame overall loss of life on these faults ;)

What I do need though, are some texts. Books, articles, etc., wherein the writers are vehemently arguing a particular point or another. For instance, human error wise, I've seen plenty of historians with their own views of who among the crew 'messed up', so to speak, the most. Any directional input on where I might find more articles, since my coursework rides on them, would be much appreciated

Regards,
Will
 
Mar 18, 2008
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I think it's rather naive to assume she was flaw-free, especially considering we are aware that rather significant flaws contributed to the vessel's loss (the watertight compartments weren't actually watertight - their boundaries fell too low, the steel was a weak and cheaper compound, her rivets were weak, etc).
The high of the WTB was done with the rules of the BOT. She could stay afloat with 4 flooded compartment but the iceberg damaged to many.
The steel was perfect and the rivet were not weak. This is one of the modern myths with no truth in it!
 

wdeasun

Member
Sep 12, 2016
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Cornwall, England
The steel was perfect and the rivet were not weak. This is one of the modern myths with no truth in it!
Are you sure? I'm sure a (shady) American documentary presented by a Naval Wreck Inquirer discovered the hull to be made of an alloy typical of the time - steel and glass. It might have been Nat Geo's "Case Closed"?

Though, as I am required to approach my coursework from a researching historian's standpoint, these are exactly the sort of myths I need to incorporate in order to dispel them and therefore dismiss/agree with the claims of the writers and theorists I will be using to build my paper. Do you know of any books this might have been discussed in? Even if it's regarding conspiracy theories :p
 
Nov 13, 2014
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"Design flaws" and "Human error" are two topics you're covering, even though neither of these played a significant role in the disaster.
I'm now taking this quote from the Channel 5 TV episode "Inside the Titanic":
It is the story of how over 1500 lives were lost when the most complex machine on Earth was invaded & destroyed by one of the Earth's simplest substances: water.
And there we have the only true cause of the disaster. Was it an error in the structure of the ship? Was it a fatal decision by Captain Smith or any other man? No, it was nothing but H2O. Titanic was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

P.S.: I do NOT recommend to not go watch that episode, and if you already did, I beg you to un-see it. I don't even call it a "documentary" because nothing of it is historically accurate at all.
 

IMM

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Nov 28, 2015
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Some of the statements above are curious. Even strange. By which I mean I disagree with them.

I disagree with the view there were no flaws or errors. Whether something is seen as a flaw or error is revealed largely by whether one wants to alter the situation in the future or not. Obviously a number of measures were taken after the Titanic sank both as regards construction and navigation. This of course is within the context of what can or cannot be accomplished in a practical context. So yes for example superior hull material is desirable but this depends on what the existing technology can provide.

The statement that the Titanic was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time also seems wrong. It implies that nothing can be done to prevent a similar future event. Again however a number of actions were taken after the sinking.

Likewise the view that water was the culprit is strange. Actually what was to blame was not water. What was to blame was that the Titanic was a ship rather than an aircraft. For then water would have been no problem. Or – and this even makes some practical sense – what was to blame was that all unused space on board was not provided with inflatable flotation devices.

Here actually is an element of disparity. If I recall in Walter Lord's second book he was rather critical of Captain Smith and not so much in his first book. Likewise I believe Smith was more or less exonerated in the British but not the American inquiry. The navigation practice at the time to include the actions of Captain Smith judged by the standard I set forth above has to be viewed as suboptimal insofar as it changed subsequently. But you know here is something interesting. Captain Rostron was so much praised after the disaster in many regards. But I have often wondered if he would or would not have been more cautious than Captain Smith had he been in the latter's place. Other captains I believe said they would not have slowed down. If Rostron had been in Smith's place and vice-versa would things have turned out differently that night?

With that last part I want to add there is no justification for blaming – or praising – anyone for anything in a moral sense. What goes by the name of “free will” is a myth. Everyone does the only thing they can or could do in every given circumstance. No one can or could do or could have done “otherwise”. That includes Edward Smith Arthur Rostron Stanley Lord and all of us. An important fact the human race would be much better off comprehending. Which does not mean we cannot learn things from the past to have a better future.
 

TimTurner

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Dec 11, 2012
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Although, I know for a fact that I don't intend to blame overall loss of life on these faults ;)
Speaking as a teacher, and a debater, I'd have to ask "Is it really controversial and are you really exploring it if you already know the outcome?"

You might also consider the category of weather/environment. After all, the coldness of the water, the ice itself (and its concentration), temperature inversion (if any), the proximity of other ships and the use of the shipping lanes, the time of day, the atmospheric conditions for the wireless were all related and necessary conditions for things to unfold as they did, but I don't see those in your categories.

I'm not sure that Edwardian Social Class and Human Error should be separate categories, in my way of organizing things it all falls under human behavior. But I'm not sure what you mean by those categories. Also, in my line of work (Computer user interface), we often see undesirable behaviors resulting from the use of an engineered item and we operate under the general philosophy that if the user uses the product wrong, then its our mistake or, to use the terminology, our design flaw), so that outlook shapes my thinking.

Good luck.
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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May as well 'dive-in' here.

First the originator of this thread began with :

" I'll be undertaking my A-Level history coursework this March, the objective of which is to tackle a controversial subject (IE: Titanic's foundering - in which I am well versed), bring forth conflicted views on the causes, and form my own opinion. I've got 10 years of general research and in depth knowledge under my belt - however, I've ran into problems. I've got a massive collection of books and documents containing sources and figures (including her wall charts and a full list of contemporary recounts from crew and passengers alike), however, to make this coursework worth its marks I need books/written materials wherein two historians vehemently disagree with one another on some facet of her sinking."

So basically, your task is to bring forth conflicted views on the causes [of the disaster], and form your own opinion. That is a very tough task indeed and one which needs a firm understanding of the technical and operational practices of the day. I must warn you that such a level of understanding is sadly missing in many of the published works which today are considered to be 'learned'. This means that unless you can clearly understand opposing arguments and how they were constructed, you will be unable to form an opinion based on hard fact. Unfortunately much of the controversy surrounding the sinking of the RMS Titanic comes from historians ( and official of the day) working backwards... i.e. they started with a conclusion and then selectively trolled the evidence to support it. The classic example of this is the involvement in the affair of the SS Californian... the vessel which stood still. Later investigations into the affair found that in all probability there was more than one vessel in the vicinity of the sinking Titanic. In fact. careful examination into all available evidence from survivors point to there being no less than 2 unidentified vessels in sight of the sinking Titanic... none of which was the unfortunate Californian.
 

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