Titanic The Last Night of a Small Town Oxford 2012

Jan 10, 2012
Dear Members

I thought you might be interested in my new Titanic book, due to be published in March 2012:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Titanic-Last-Ni ... 0199595577

As many of you will know, it was Walter Lord in A Night to Remember (1955) who described the sinking of the Titanic as 'the last night of a small town'. My book Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012), both builds upon and challenges Lord's famous account. First, it re-balances the narrative, covering First, Second, and Third Class; women as well as men; children as well as adults; crew members as well as passengers; and people from countries other than Britain and America. Second, the book offers not just a minute-by-minute depiction of events, but explores themes - the ship's construction, social class, migration, radio - thereby employing and extending the metaphor of a small town.

The book features the stories of both crew and passengers. The featured crew includes the Second Officer; a Stewardess; the young Assistant Wireless Operator; and the Captain of the Carpathia rescue ship. There are eight featured passengers in all - an amateur military historian and governess in First Class; a teacher in Second; a domestic servant and mother in Third; and three children. What were their earlier histories, their hopes and anxieties? Who survived, and why, and who perished? What happened to these people in the years after 1912? And what can we learn from their accounts? On the centenary of the sinking, it is the individual histories of twelve of the inhabitants of the small town that this book reconstructs. The book employs the rigorous, sceptical approach of the social historian, while at the same time retaining the vividness of the eye-witness account.

Any comments on the book will be very welcome. Best wishes

John Welshman

Jason D. Tiller

Aug 20, 2000
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Hello John,

Welcome aboard and congratulations on your book!

It sounds interesting, as it appears that your book gives a fresh perspective on the disaster.

I look forward to acquiring a copy and reading it.

Mike Poirier

Dec 12, 1999
Dr. Welshman,

Congratulations on your book. I'm curious, have you uncovered new survivor accounts that have not been published or posted on the net? Did you have contact with the relatives of the people you feature in your book? Are there new pictures?

Mike Poirier
Jan 10, 2012
Dear Mike

Thanks. I think what is 'new' is a difficult issue with the Titanic as with so much previously it is difficult to discover things that are really 'new'. Perhaps 'unearth' is a better word.

What I try to do in the book is to balance relatively well-known accounts (Beesley; Bride; Lightoller; Rostron etc) with others that are much less well-known (Frank Goldsmith; Elin Hakkarainen; Hanna Touma).

But I think that even the well-known accounts tend to be known for iconic descriptions (eg the sinking) and there are a lot of other interesting minor details that tend to be forgotten.

In all the accounts that I have used I have taken a lot out (eg anything that is obviously not eye-witness) and also put a lot in (eg biographical details before and after 1912, and also details on other passengers and crew that my 12 mention).

An interesting comparison is between my book and Richard Davenport-Hines' Titanic Lives (Harper Collins, 2012). What Richard and I are doing is in some ways similar - build up a panorama of the social history of crew and passengers - but whereas his book is more thematic in structure, mine is a narrative.

Hope that is helpful. Best wishes


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