Review Blog

May 04 2012

Titanic unclassified : secrets of the Titanic revealed by Alex Stewart

cover image

A and C Black, 2012. ISBN 9781408160527.
Written for the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic sinking, this book tells the story of the disaster using photographs, copies of historical documents and pictures of artifacts to support the text. The history of trans-Atlantic travel is outlined and the rivalry between competing shipping lines explained to enable younger readers to appreciate the enormity of the vessel and the magnificence of its design.
Excellent diagrams illustrate the vessel's layout and facsimiles of shipboard documents such as menus and telegrams lend a sense of reality to readers who will be aware of the legendary event but might be unable to identify with it through the mist of time.
Titanic's design and construction, with obvious reference to the fabled 'watertight' compartments and inadequate life boats is covered in some detail, as is her launch and sea trials. Stewart also explains the vast gulf between the fabulously rich passengers undertaking the passage for amusement and the cultivation of their image amongst peers as opposed to the desperately poor migrants seeking a more satisfactory life in the United States.
The series of events which culminated in the sinking are explained and the sense of confusion, shock and chaos is conveyed in language which is not overly technical or complex. Some content which has been analysed and interpreted in different ways during the last century is presented somewhat simplistically from one perspective, however the account is generally reasonable and balanced.
The author has sourced some of his documentary and photographic evidence from the British National Archives and the inclusion of the word 'unclassified' both in the title and stamped over many documentary facsimiles implies that this is previously withheld information. This is not the case and whilst this book is very good and will be a much valued and well used addition to library collections, there is little to distinguish it from the many similar publications which present the usual elements, using the same few surviving photographs.
Rob Welsh

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