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Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town - Hardcover

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9780199595570: Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town
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In his famous book A Night to Remember, Walter Lord described the sinking of the Titanic as "the last night of a small town." Now, a hundred years after her sinking, historian John Welshman reconstructs the fascinating individual experiences of twelve of the inhabitants of this tragically short-lived floating village.

In Titanic, Welshman offers a minute-by-minute account of the doomed liner's last hours, based on a representative cross-section of those who sailed in her: men and women, old and young, passengers and crew, wealthy and poor. He introduces the reader to a fascinating cast of twelve eye-witnesses, including Arthur H. Rostron, Captain of the Carpathia, the first ship to reach the scene; Charles Lightoller, the Titanic's Second Officer; Archibald Gracie, a wealthy American cotton plantation owner; Elin Hakkarainen, a young migrant from Finland, travelling Third Class; and Edith Brown, a teenager from South Africa. The book also documents the experiences of an Assistant Wireless Operator, a Stewardess, an amateur military historian, a governess, a teacher, and a domestic servant. The survivor accounts allow Welshman to construct a graphic and compelling picture of events on a day-to-day and hour-by-hour basis, providing vivid glimpses of the tragedy as seen from their respective vantage points. In addition, Welshman tells the story of where these twelve people were from and what happened to those who survived in the years afterwards. Finally, the author, a respected social historian, offers many insights into nineteenth-century social class, migration, work, and the broader history of Northern Ireland.

Drawing on published autobiographical accounts, diaries, private papers, archival materials, and a wide array of other sources, Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town offers a unique account of one of the most memorable disasters in modern history.

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Images from the Book (Click on Images to Enlarge)
Images courtesy of the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.
Titanic propeller with shipyard workers before launch. (May 31, 1911) (Click on image to enlarge.) Unidentified Titanic survivors aboard the Carpathia rescue ship. (Click on image to enlarge.) Photograph of the "Hoffman orphans" before they had been identified as the Navratil children. (Click on image to enlarge.) Arthur Rostron, Captain of the Carpathia, being presented with a silver "loving cup" by survivor Molly Brown. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Excerpt from the Book: Key People in John Welshman's Titanic
In Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town, author John Welshman follows the narratives of the following twelve passengers during the course of the ship's sinking.

Lawrence Beesley (35) is an English science teacher. One of his pupils at Dulwich College, London, was a boy called Raymond Chandler. Beesley's wife Cissy has recently died of tuberculosis, and he has decided to visit his brother in Toronto. He is travelling Second Class.

Harold Bride (22) is the Assistant Wireless Operator. He had been born in London in 1890, and had qualified in June 1911. His sending and receiving rate of 20 words a minute had been deemed to be 'very good'.

Edith Brown (15) is travelling with her parents Elizabeth and Thomas in Second Class. She had been born in South Africa, and the family is emigrating to live in Seattle in the United States.

Frank Goldsmith (9) is travelling with his parents Emily and Frank. The family is from Strood in Kent, England, and they are travelling Third Class. Like the Browns, they are emigrating to the United States, but in their case to Detroit.

Colonel Archibald Gracie (53) is a wealthy American amateur military historian. He has just finished writing a book about his father, and has been on holiday in Europe. He is travelling First Class.

Eva Hart (7) is travelling in Second Class with her parents Benjamin and Esther. The family are from Seven Kings, east of London. They are also emigrating, but in their case to Winnipeg, in Canada. Eva is carrying a large doll that her father bought for her in Gamages Department Store in Holborn, London.

Elin Hakkarainen (24) is a domestic servant, originally from Helsinki in Finland, but who had been working in the United States. Her husband Pekka had also been working there, in a steel mill, in Monessen, Pennsylvania. The couple got married in Helsinki in January, and are looking forward to their new lives in the United States.

Violet Jessop (24) is a Stewardess, working in First Class. Violet was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1887. Her best friend is another Stewardess, Elizabeth Leather.

Herbert 'Lights' Lightoller (38) is the Second Officer. He was born in Chorley, Lancashire, in 1874. The crew have been reshuffled, and he has just been demoted from First Officer to Second.

Arthur Rostron (43), is not on the Titanic, but is Captain of the Carpathia liner. He was born in Bolton in 1869, and has had a long career on various ships. On 11 April 1912, the Carpathia leaves New York and is heading in the opposite direction to the Titanic, for Fiume on the Adriatic coast.

Elizabeth Shutes (40) is a governess, travelling in First Class with the Graham family. Her charge Margaret Graham is 19, and also in the party is Margaret’s mother, Edith. Elizabeth was born in 1871, in Newburgh, New York.

Hanna Touma (27) is travelling in Third Class with her children Maria and Georges. The family is from a village called Tibnin in the Middle East and are travelling to be reunited with Hanna's husband, Darwis. He is already working in the United States, in a town called Dowagiac, Michigan.



About the Author:

John Welshman is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Lancaster University. He is the author or editor of six books on twentieth-century British social history, including Churchill's Children: The Evacuee Experience in Wartime Britain.

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