The Titanic and R

There are many stories about the sinking of the Titanic: about men giving up their lives so that women and children may be saved, about how disproportionately more in Third Class drowned than in First. But what do the data say?

Contingency, chaos and prejudice had as much to do with who was saved as class. The highest mortality rate was not in steerage but among the men in Second Class, who died at twice the rate of men in steerage and five times the rate of women there. The foreign staff of the first-class restaurant – they worked for the licensee and not WSL – suffered the highest proportion of deaths because they weren’t British and no one cared. Only three out of 66 survived compared to 22 per cent of the men in the engine room.

Thomas Laqueur goes on to point out that

A vast set of Titanic data comes packaged free with the open-source computer program R, used for doing statistics in the social sciences. Novices are invited to play with the data to practise regressions and other statistical manipulations.

Worth a look, if you’re interested in learning more than what the documentary films and traveling exhibitions tell you.

Laqueur’s review describes how the Titanic disaster reflected the social, cultural, and technological situation of its time, and also how we in the present have repurposed it, so that it’s become a theme park for some to gawk at and for others to make money from.


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