Many British victims of the Titanic disaster in 1912 may have sunk with the ship because of their gentlemanly behavior, according to Swiss and Australian researchers.
After examining the economic and social backgrounds of the 2,200 passengers and crew onboard the fated ocean liner, University of Zurich economist Bruno Frey and colleagues from Queensland University of Technology found that the Britons on board were 10 percent less likely to have survived than all other nationalities.
The researchers suggested that good manners, or “noblesse oblige,” might have had something to do with that in the rush for the lifeboats, the Swiss news agency ATS reported.
Their as-yet-unpublished study concluded that social norms such as “women and children first” do survive in the kind of situation found on board the British liner for nearly three hours after it hit an iceberg.
But they also found that Americans had a higher survival rate than all the others when the Titanic sank in icy Atlantic waters.
“We were interested in how people behave when it’s a matter of life and death,” Frey said.
The Titanic did not have enough lifeboats and some 1,500 people died when the reputedly unsinkable liner went down on its maiden transatlantic voyage.
The study also found that women of reproductive age were better off, while women, as a whole, had a 53-percent better chance of survival. But children were only 15-percent more likely to have survived than adults.
Crew members had an 18-percent higher probability of surviving, probably thanks to an “information advantage” and better access to resources such as lifeboats.
But fitness and cultural background also appeared to matter, while social class was a glaring factor.
The study found that wealthy first-class passengers had a 40-percent better chance of surviving than those in third class, who were segregated in cabins deep inside the hull and struggled to reach deck.