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Erik Larson on the Sinking of the Lusitania

Evening Lecture

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0071
National Museum of Natural History
Baird Auditorium
10th St & Constitution Ave, NW
Metro: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian
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Erik Larson, known for expertly transporting readers into the historical past in The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, now ushers readers aboard the Lusitania as it begins its tragic final crossing. It is a timely trip, as 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the disaster that steered America on the road to war.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania examines the transatlantic voyage that began in New York on May 1, 1915, under a cloud of anxiety. A notice placed by the German Embassy in Washington had appeared in the city’s newspapers, warning travelers sailing on British ships to “do so at their own risk.”  Though the Cunard line touted the Lusitania as “the safest boat on the sea,” Germany had declared the waters around Britain to be a war zone, and for months its submarines had brought terror to the North Atlantic. The ship’s Liverpool-bound voyage would bring it within that dangerous area.

Larson presents a portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era, and brings to life a cast of characters including President Woodrow Wilson, awash in grief after the loss of his wife; Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat, a passenger carrying an irreplaceable literary treasure; Captain William Thomas Turner, who took the safety of his passengers seriously, but secretly thought of them as “bloody monkeys”; and Winston Churchill, then first lord of the Admiralty, whose ultra-secret spy group failed to convey crucial naval intelligence that might have saved the Lusitania and its passengers. 

Jennifer Ludden, national correspondent for NPR, moderates.

Program ticket includes a copy of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.