In his famous book A Night to Remember, historian Walter Lord described the sinking of the Titanic as 'the last night of a small town'. Now, a hundred years after her sinking, John Welshman reconstructs the fascinating individual histories of twelve of the inhabitants of this tragically short-lived floating town. They include members of the crew; passengers in First, Second, and Third Class; women and men; adults and children; rich and poor. Among them are a ship's Captain, a Second Officer, an Assistant Wireless Operator; a Stewardess, an amateur military historian, a governess, a teacher, a domestic servant, a mother, and three children. What were their earlier histories? Who survived, and why, and who perished? And what happened to these people in the years after 1912? Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town answers all these questions and more, while offering a minute-by-minute depiction of events aboard the doomed liner through the eyes of a broad and representative cross-section of those who sailed in her - both those who survived and those who didn't.
The second edition of my Underclass book (2006) was published by Bloomsbury on 10 October 2013.
It includes a new chapter on 'Troubled Families and the Coalition Government', and a revised one on 'Problem Families and the Labour Governments'.
It tries to look at the Coalition Government's initiative on troubled families in light of the reconstruction of the concept of the 'underclass' since the 1880s, in both the UK and the US.
My previous book Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (Oxford, Oxford University Press, March 2012) was published on 15 March 2012.
The book reconstructs the sinking through the narratives of 12 passengers and crew members. It was historian Walter Lord in A Night to Remember (1955) who described the sinking of the Titanic as 'the last night of a small town'. My book both builds upon and challenges Lord's famous account. First, it re-balances the narrative, covering First, Second, and Third Class; women as well as men; children as well as adults; crew members as well as passengers; and people from countries other than Britain and America. Second, the book offers not just a minute-by-minute depiction of events, but explores themes - the ship's construction, social class, migration, radio - thereby employing and extending the metaphor of a small town.
The book features the stories of both crew and passengers. The featured crew includes the Second Officer; a Stewardess; the young Assistant Wireless Operator; and the Captain of the Carpathia liner. There are eight featured passengers in all - an amateur military historian and governess in First Class; a teacher in Second; a domestic servant and mother in Third; and three children. What were their earlier histories, their hopes and anxieties? Who survived, and why, and who perished? What happened to these people in the years after 1912? And what can we learn from their accounts?
On the centenary of the sinking, it is the individual histories of twelve of the inhabitants of the small town that this book reconstructs. The book employs the rigorous, sceptical approach of the social historian, while at the same time retaining the vividness of the eye-witness account.
I was born in Banbridge, Co-Down, Northern Ireland in 1963, was educated at the Universities of York and Oxford, and am currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Lancaster University.
One previous book was Churchill's Children: The Evacuee Experience in Wartime Britain (Oxford University Press, March 2010) which was based on 13 eye-witness accounts. The narrative opens with the children waiting to leave, highlights their experiences while they were away, and closes with their return home. In between, it shows the varied nature of their experiences, whether they were ones of happiness or sadness, excitement or boredom, resentment or acceptance, love or abuse.
I am the author or editor of five other books on twentieth-century British social history:
Municipal Medicine: Public Health in Twentieth-Century Britain (Peter Lang, 2000)
Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties, and History (British Institute of Learning Disabilities, 2005)
Community Care in Perspective: Care, Control, and Citizenship (Palgrave, 2006)
Underclass: A History of the Excluded, 1880-2000 (Continuum, 2006)
From Transmitted Deprivation to Social Exclusion: Policy, Poverty, and Parenting (The Policy Press, 2007, paperback edition 2012).
I am currently working on a book about Malawi, where I lived as a child in the early 1970s. I see the book as a mixture of history; travelogue; and family memoir.