This has the makings of a very long thread, but here's my starter for ten anyway. Feel free to decimate my humble opinions all ye beady eyed vultures out there!
On a social level the disaster had an enormous effect on the US and Britain. As Walter Lord points out in "A Night To Remember" for 100 years after Waterloo, an era of relative peace in Europe, man had gone about creating ever more ingenious and technical monuments to his genius and this culminated in many ways with the Titanic, the largest ship in the world and "practically unsinkable" (as described in an immensely respected maritime journal of the day).
The Titanic was a symbol, conscious or not, of mans conquering of the elements and increasing invulnerability.
The mood of the Edwardian era was extremely optimistic and it was felt that in time no objective could not be acheived. The cynicism of today was not so apparant in those long ago years.
There was also a strict class code on both sides of the Atlantic with the rich generally looked upon by the poorer classes as their "betters". There was a much greater divide between the rich and the poor in those days and the poor, as a (very) general rule, accepted that the rich had certain privelages, even rights, in the course of their lives which were not open to them. This was borne out on the Titanic by a number of third class passengers (Olaus Abelseth for one) who were merely happy to be allowed on deck never mind getting into a boat. Even the layout of the Titanic ensured that in the event of disaster First and Second Class Passengers had easy access to the lifeboats, while for Third class passengers (stranded at the bow and stern of the ship)the options were much less obvious.
When the Titanic sank, the air of pride and self confidence in the Anglo Saxon world was severely dented. Here was the worlds largest, safest liner, American owned and British run, sinking on her first voyage and taking with her some of the great notables of the day.
The fact that the ocean liner in the first part of the 20th century was not merely a mode of transport but a source of immense national pride, and that the Titanic sank in the middle of a shipbuilding race between Germany and Britain (which was a major precipitator of the First World War)also deeply wounded the British and American psyche.
It is hard to think of any event occuring in the modern world which could equal the shock of the sinking of the Titanic.
The unquestioned view of the richer classes also took a major battering, with the pillorieing of J Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star and the ridicule and scorn poured on Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon being extraordinary events at the time. After the First World War all these attitudes would be really swept away in the trenches of the Western Front but the Titanic opened a huge seam.
The question of how important money really was was also examined by preachers and ordinary people alike. As Lord asked, if money was worth so little on the night of the sinking, how much was it worth for the rest of the year?
The disaster was even seized upon by the suffragette movement with campaigners writing to newspapers questioning the "women and children first" policy used to fill the boats on the night.
The ridiculously outdated laws concerning lifeboat provision were changed after the disaster...no more complicated equations, simply lifeboats for all. Other major maritime laws (eg. 24 hour radio watch) were passed following the disaster, and an international ice patrol was set up to monitor icebergs which passed in to shipping lanes. Most of the laws passed, and the patrol, are still in force today.
In my opinion the most important effect of the sinking of the Titanic was a sweeping away of complacency and the dawn of a new cynicism, where everything wasn't OK in the world and that if it was possible for a ship of the magnitude of the Titanic to disappear after a brush with ice in the middle of the night, how could anybody be certain of anything ever again.
Another significant effect was the massive rise in the price of stock in Marconi as it played such a massive part in the story.
Overnight the wireless system on ships went from a playful curiosity for passengers and some newfangled irrelevancy for older mariners to a critical part of any ships system.
The marconi operators on the Titanic were classed in the victualling department along with stewards, chefs and the like and not in the deck officer class as we would expect today.
Michael - there seemed to be a shortage of suitable crew on the Titanic to man the lifeboats available. This may or may not have been a consequence of not having a proper drill, but I wonder if this point was realised when shipping lines festooned their decks with loads more boats.
Even if conditions were perfect (it has been discussed elsewhere how it would be almost impossible to launch boats from port and starboard in choppy seas or with a sufficient list)and there was enough time, there doesn't seem to have been enough trained crew on an Olympic Class liner to manage the boats anyway.
I counted only 54 crew members from the deck department on the Titanic who were ordinary seamen or above. Surely not enough.
I wonder if this was considered at the time when they made the knee jerk reaction to theoretically provide boats for all.
G'Day Sam, interesting points here, and if memory serves, the lack of trained seaman for the boats was raised during the investigations on both sides of the pond. I'll have to go back into my transcripts to check this one out. I think another aggravating factor was that quite a few of the seamen seemed to be unaware of where their emergency stations were.
I have a book and it tell some ways suggested here are some:
"Another idea was to design the cabins themselves in such a way that they could function as lifeboats. A similar suggection that was more fully developed was for decks that could be detached from the ship and converted into life boats."
Another one was to attach cannons to the bow so that if an iceberg was spotted it could be blown out of the water!!
The book also stated some new laws after the Titanic sank:
Ships had to have transverse bulkheads in addition with verticle ones.
Wireless became mandatory for all steamers carrying 50 or more passengers, Wireless equipment had to include an auxiliary power supply, 24 hour service must be supplied, Direct communication between the wireless office and the bridge so that all warnings would be posted on the bridge.
Any ship that fired a rocket for any other reason than emergency could be fined.
The standard shipping route between Europe and American was moved 60 miles south from February to August, to avoid ice.
The International Ice Patrol was formed.
The Seaman Act was passed in 1915 it allowed sailers to take jobs from any company freely and limited their workday to 8 hours.
Laws were passed to stop monopolies over passenger ship business.
Thank you, some very interesting stuff here! The following is a criticism of the ideas/laws you have posted:
Detachable decks or cabins...what an idea! Presumably too expensive though. Imagine detachable cabins from airplanes.
The vertical/transverse bulkhead law seems reasonable in theory, but there are sure to be instances when ships are damaged to the point where they keel over because of longditudinal bulkheads... this seems, in Michaels words, a knee jerk reaction.
What monopolies had to do with the Titanic disaster is questionable. If there was a monopoly on the shipping lines of the world at the time, and they were properly regulated by an outside body,Thngs would have been much better, no Anglo/German shipping race being the major benefit.
Oh I wouldn't be too hard on the people who came up with some ideas even if they were way out there in cloud cuckoo land. At least people started thinking about it whereas little real thought had been given to it befor outside of the maritime community.
I might point out that the Titanic had transverse bulkheads. (As in bulkheads which ran from one side of the ship to another.) The proposal was for longitudinal (As in bulkheads running the length of the ship) bulkheads such as what the Lusitania and Mauritania had. Also, bulkheads are vertical structures as opposed to horizontal structures (The deck!)
H&W wasn't fond of the idea as flooding confined to one side increased the risk of capsising or at least heeling over to one side while sinking...which was exactly what happened to the Lusitania. A pronounced list also makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to launch boats on one side of the ship.