One of the intriguing aspects of the Titanic story is the way it offers insights into particular locations. A particularly good example is Oxford Street in Southampton. Southampton became established as England’s main passenger port following the transfer, from 1907, of the White Star Line’s transatlantic express service from Liverpool. By 1912, the city was home to steamship companies that included the Royal Mail, Union Castle, and American Lines.
By John Welshman
At the time of the collision, Hanna Touma was standing in the doorway of the family’s cabin. She was talking to one of the other migrants from her village. It was just a jolt, but it made the door slam shut, cutting her index finger. Two of the men went to find out what had happened while Hanna went to the Infirmary to get her hand bandaged. Everyone she passed wondered what had caused the jolt and why the ship had stopped.
At 11:40 pm ship’s time on 14 April 1912, the HMS Titanic hit an iceberg. Just two hours and forty minutes later, the hull broke, taking the ship and over one thousand people still aboard into the sea. It remains one of the greatest disasters in maritime history. In Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town, John Welshman gathered 25 pictures of this ill-fated voyage together and we’d like to share a few with you.
By John Welshman
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’. Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town, draws on Lord’s metaphor by focusing on the stories of just 12 people, chosen as a representative cross-section of passengers and crew.
Downton Abbey opens with the telegram announcing that the Earl of Grantham’s heir, James Crawley, and his son Patrick, have perished in the sinking of the Titanic. Since Lady Mary was supposed to marry Patrick, the succession plans go awry, and this sets off a chain of events. But how likely is it that an English aristocrat would have perished in the disaster?
By John Welshman
The latest news for period drama fans is that Julian Fellowes, writer of Downton Abbey, has created a four-part ITV mini-series commemorating the centenary of the Titanic sinking. However, what many viewers may not realise is that there was a real Fellowes on board the ship in 1912. But rather than being an ancestor of the popular writer, Alfred J. Fellowes was a humble crew member and one of the estimated 1,514 people to perish in the maritime disaster.
A lot has changed in the past 100 years, but certain stories stay with us, such as those of the people aboard the RMS Titanic. One of the greatest disasters in maritime history, its sinking sent over one thousand people still aboard into the Arctic waters. Leading political figures and servants, teachers and children, wireless operators and engineers, layered the hulking ship. We sat down with author John Welshman to discuss the people on this star-crossed voyage.
Now that Series One and Two, plus the Christmas Special, of Downton Abbey have aired in the US and Canada, we’ve decided to compile a reading list for those serious-minded viewers who’d like to learn more about Edwardian England, World War I, life in an aristocratic household, and what lies ahead for the Crawleys and their servants. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Churchill’s Children author John Welshman reflects on his first literary festival
The phrase ‘Broken Britain’ is well known to British newspaper readers; it’s a phrase commonly used across the media to describe society’s problems. Here, historian John Welshman traces this identification of a broken society back to around the time of the Second World War, and argues that the real answer is – and was then – to address society’s inequalities rather than ‘Big Society’ and a retreat from state involvement.
John Welshman on plimsolls, poverty, and policy during the Second World War.
John Welshman is the author of Churchill’s Children: The Evacuee Experience in Wartime Britain. He is currently working on a book provisionally entitled Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (forthcoming, 2012). Below he talks about Walter Lord, who wrote the acclaimed book A Night to Remember about the Titantic. You can read his previous OUPblog posts here.
It’s the morning of Wednesday 12 May, and I’m in London to be interviewed by Laurie Taylor on the Radio 4 programme ‘Thinking Allowed’. Selina Todd, from Manchester University, has been asked to contribute her assessment of my book, and so will also be on the show. I know of her work, but haven’t met her previously. The researchers have assured me that Selina likes the book, but she has a formidable reputation, and I worry what she might say.