10 April 1912: the Titanic sets sail on its doomed maiden voyage

On this day in 1912 the White Star line's 'unsinkable' liner, the RMS Titanic, left Southampton on its doomed maiden voyage.

The time from the start of the 20th century to the outbreak of World War II was the "golden age" of ocean liners. One of the most popular routes was the transatlantic crossing, for which shipping companies built ever more luxurious vessels. The best-known was the RMS Titanic. It was commissioned by White Star Lines in September 1908 and took two and a half years for Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff to finish. It was deemed "unsinkable".

It began its maiden voyage on 10 April 1912. Before it had left Southampton harbour, it narrowly missed another ship, the SS New York. After stopping at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown in Ireland it sailed out into the Atlantic to beginthe main leg of its journey to New York.

But on the night of14 April, after ignoring repeated warnings, the Titanic hit an iceberg. The impact ripped a hole in the hull (partly due to poor-quality rivets), letting in water.It took less than three hours for the ship to sink.

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Rescue attempts were hindered by a delayed response from the captain and one nearby ship not responding to distress calls. Due to outdated regulations, there were only enough lifeboat spaces for around half the crew and passengers. As a result, between 1,490 and 1,635 people died. The convention of "women and children first" was taken seriously more third-class women passengers survived (46%) than first-class men (32.6%).

The disaster led to many safety improvements, including an increase in the number of lifeboats.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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