Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the Lusitania

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the Lusitania

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On May 7th, 1915 a passenger ship crossing the Atlantic sank with the loss of 1200 lives. On board were some world-famous figures, including multimillionaire Alfred Vanderbilt. But this wasn't the Titanic and there was no iceberg. The liner was the Lusitania and it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. "Wilful Murder" is the story of the sinking of the Lusitania. The book looks at the events in their full historical context, while placing the human dimension at its heart. Using first-hand accounts of the tragedy the author brings the characters to life, recreating the splendour of the liner as it set sail and the horror of its final moments. Using British, American and German research material, Diana Preston aims to answer many of the unanswered and controversial questions surrounding the Lusitania: why didn't Cunard listen to warnings that the ship would be a target of the Germans? Was the Lusitania sacrificed to bring the Americans into the War? What was really in the Lusitania's hold? Was she armed? Had Cunard's offices been infiltrated by German agents? And did the Kaiser's decision to cease unrestricted U-boat warfare in response to international outrage expressed after the sinking effectively change the outcome of the World War I?show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 608 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 44mm | 598.75g
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Black Swan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • Illustrationsfacsims,ports.
  • 0552998869
  • 9780552998864
  • 847,517

Review quote

"Very good. . . . Preston has done an extraordinary amount of work, particularly in tracing the memories of survivors."-"Sunday Times""It is not easy, nowadays, to write an original book on the First World War . . . but Preston has succeeded."-"Sunday Times"show more

About Diana Preston

Diana Preston is an Oxford-trained historian, writer, and broadcaster who lives in London. She is the author of The Road to Culloden Moor: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45 Rebellion; A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole and The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners that Shook the World in the Summer of 1900.show more

Review Text

The key to understanding is detail; the more you know about a thing, the more you know that thing. Nowhere is that cliche more appropriate than in the discussion and interpretation of controversial events; nobody is better at providing this detail than Diana Preston. Her previous books, among them reflections on the Battle of Culloden, Scott's attempt on the South Pole and the Boxer Rising of 1900, have given significant new insights into much-debated subjects. Here Preston turns her lens on the events surrounding the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915, and in 500 pages explores, dissects and explains every possible aspect of the tragedy. The history of the transatlantic ocean liner passenger trade and Cunard in particular is covered. The fatal torpedoes were loosed from a submarine, so the history of submarines and submarine warfare is also rehearsed. Going to the original source material, events like the embarkation of passengers on the final voyage and the loading of the disputed cargo - a key point in the narrative - are described in microscopic detail. Access to original documents also gives Preston the chance to position the tragedy on an individual, human scale. Alongside a picture of travelling conditions in all classes of accommodation, sketches of specific, named passengers of all types are given, from the ordinary citizen in steerage right down to the international bankers in first class; layer upon layer of detail accumulates, so that by the time the sinking itself is described the reader has a much clearer idea of what that bright afternoon was like when the torpedoes struck. This close observation is in no way prurient; crucially, it allows discussion of the political context within which the sinking happened and the global implications of its aftermath with an authority never before possible. Diana Preston's conclusions concerning the legality of the act and its effect on the course of the war complete what is the definitive work on the subject. (Kirkus UK)show more