There has been a renewed wave of interest in the fateful maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic as the 100th anniversary of its iceberg collision approaches on April 14, 2012. The recent fervor has included a 3D rerelease of the blockbuster film, James Cameron’s Titanic, as well as a memorial cruise following Titanic’s original route.
Allen Guelzo, Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and professor of history at Gettysburg College, wrote two recent articles that raise a provocative question.
Was it presumption or arrogance that sunk the unsinkable ship?
Read on for more of Guelzo’s thoughts on one of the deadliest maritime disasters in history.
The pride before the Titanic’s fall
by Allen C. Guelzo
The New York Post – April 11, 2012
Presumption is the kinder, gentler cousin of arrogance. It’s also, for that reason, harder to spot in advance, and on this weekend’s centennial of the sinking of the fabled White Star Line’s Titanic, we should remember the difference.
Although the Titanic was dubbed “unsinkable” by the Irish shipyard that built her, it wasn’t arrogance but a remarkable record of competence that stood behind the claim.
Titanic was the steady culmination of 40 years of passenger-ship experience on the North Atlantic, beginning with White Star’s first passenger liner, Oceanic, in 1871. Oceanic was 420 feet long and weighed, at full load, 3,700 tons. Twenty-five years later, White Star liners reached 749 feet and 24,000 tons.
The Titanic, which began construction in 1909, was only the next step in the growth of these fabulous vessels: 882 1/2 feet long, 46,328 tons, 29 boilers, a small hospital suite, two barber shops, a French café and four graceful 70-foot-tall funnels, which gave the Titanic her trademark profile. Titanic was big and opulent, but not edgy.
If anything, it was built beyond the safety requirements of the day. The ship floated on a 5-foot-tall double bottom, providing insurance against uncharted rocks and reefs. More than 2,000 mild-steel plates, some as long as 36 feet and all an inch thick, were riveted to 300 steel ribs; inside the hull, multi-deck steel bulkheads formed 16 large watertight compartments.
Read the full New York Post story here.
by Allen C. Guelzo
National Review Online – April 13, 2012
‘The Titanic, name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption.” That was the judgment of Edward Stuart Talbot, the Anglican bishop of Winchester, in the sermon he preached the Sunday after the fabled Atlantic passenger liner Titanic took nearly 1,500 lives with her as she sank after striking an iceberg in mid-ocean on April 14, 1912. “When has such a mighty lesson against our confidence and trust in power, machinery, and money been shot through the nation?” Talbot could not have known it, but an entire cascade of mighty lessons was about to be visited on human presumption in spades, in the form of two World Wars (Talbot would lose a son at Ypres) and the genocidal sacrifice of millions on the altars of Fascism and Communism. A mid-ocean shipping accident that cost a five-hundredth of the lives Britain lost in the 1914–18 war should seem like small potatoes indeed.
And yet, the Titanic conjures up more vivid images in people’s minds today than Ypres, and images almost as vivid as those of the Holocaust. The ship has been memorialized in six major motion pictures (including the lavish Nazi propaganda film Titanic in 1943, the American Grand Hotel–style melodrama Titanic in 1953, the British docudrama A Night to Remember in 1958, and James Cameron’s Titanic in 1997) and two Broadway musicals. A small industry of Titanic researchers has itemized the ship down to the last rivet; there are seven current Titanic-artifact exhibitions on offer; and the number of books on the Titanic has topped 200, from Walter Lord’s 1955 bestseller A Night to Remember (the foundation for the British movie) to the more mundane 1,912 Facts About the Titanic (1994).
Read the full National Review story here.
Allen Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and a professor of history at Gettysburg College. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.Div. from Philadelphia Theological Seminary, and an honorary doctorate in history from Lincoln College in Illinois.
Guelzo's essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in publications ranging from the American Historical Review and Wilson Quarterly to newspapers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and Wall Street Journal. In 2000, his book Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President won both the Lincoln Prize and the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize. He did it again in 2005 with his book, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, making him the first double Lincoln Laureate in the history of both prizes.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803Posted: Fri, 13 Apr 2012
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