The RMS Lusitania
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The RMS Lusitania

Tragedy on the Atlantic, May 7, 1915
4.9 (30 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
3,444 students enrolled
Created by Gerald Franz
Last updated 7/2015
Price: Free
  • 3.5 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • understand the interesting origins of the Lusitania, and the dual function of the ship during the Great War as both passenger liner and as a transport for munitions to England.
  • appreciate the aesthetic design and features of the Lusitania for its saloon, 2nd and 3rd class passengers.
  • describe the effect that the sinking of the Titanic had upon the history of the Lusitania.
  • describe how the Great War changed the use and purpose of the Lusitania.
  • discuss some of the Lusitania passengers and their stories.
  • describe the German U-boat U20, its commander, and features and capabilities.
  • summarize the events surrounding the attack and sinking of the Lusitania.
  • discuss the rescue efforts of others, and of the people of Queenstown.
  • compare and contrast the responses of the Americans, Germans, and British to the sinking of the Lusitania.
  • summarize some of the major efforts to explore the underwater wreck of the Lusitania.
  • compare the two main views of the second explosion on the Lusitania.
  • relate how the Lusitania story came into music, drama, and art during those years.
View Curriculum
  • Students just need the ability to view and hear video recordings.

This course on the RMS Lusitania was created to memorialize the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this ocean liner on May 7, 1915. In 25 video lectures, lasting almost four hours, this course will survey the complete history of the Lusitania. Included are class notes, quizzes, and extra links to videos or articles.

The Lusitania went into service as one of the largest, most luxurious, and fastest liners. It transported saloon class, second class, and third class passengers between New York and Liverpool, England.

However, when the Great War began, the Lusitania was used by the British government and Royal Navy to transport munitions from the United States to England, while still functioning as a passenger liner. This course will describe the tensions from performing both of these roles, as well as the German outrage over the munitions supplies being shipped.

The course will focus especially on that last voyage, including the stories of some of the passengers. The lectures will combine the accounts of the U20 German U-boat and the Lusitania, as well as the decisions and actions of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic concerning the ship. After the successful U-boat attack upon the Lusitania, the lectures will focus upon the crew and passengers and their efforts to save themselves and their loved ones. We will also look at the rescuers, and the significant efforts of the people of Queenstown, Ireland.

The lectures will cover both the immediate and long-term aftermath, including various inquiries held to assign responsibility, as well as underwater explorations of the Lusitania site. The course will end with an epilogue, conclusions, and a last lecture concerning the memory of the Lusitania from 1915 to 1917, when the United States entered the Great War.

Welcome aboard this course!

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is for persons High School age and up.
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Curriculum For This Course
25 Lectures
Before the Final Voyage
6 Lectures 53:55

This lecture will introduce the topic, giving a few vignettes concerning the RMS Lusitania. I will briefly introduce myself and how I will be presenting this topic, including the use of Powerpoint and 25 video lectures. There are many extra sources, including links, videos, lecture notes, quizzes, and a bibliography. Finally, I will note some of the best sources I've used in this study.

Introduction to the Course

In this lecture, I will introduce two rising industries. First, there was the submarine, and second, the passenger liner, which was especially developed by Germany, England, and the United States. We will describe how the Lusitania and Mauretania were created with the help of the British government and Royal Navy, and how, in the event of a war, the ships would be taken over by the government and used for military purposes. However, we will note that the timing of the construction was unfortunate because it did not take into account the rapid development of the torpedo. The lecture concludes with the maiden voyage of the Lusitania in September 1907 to New York and back to Liverpool.

The Creation of the Lusitania

This lecture will provide a tour of the Lusitania using the website Lusitania Online, and some photos that have survived. The tour covers many of the rooms of the saloon class, second class, and third class passengers. I will also quickly review some basic nautical terms that will be used in this course.

A Tour of the Lusitania

This lecture will describe how two events affected the history of the Lusitania. First there was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Recommendations were made for other liners after the sinking. Did the Lusitania implement all of those important recommendations? The second event was the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. How will the British Navy use the Lusitania during the war? The answer prompted the Lusitania's commander, Captain Daniel Dow, to resign. Another captain took command.

The Lusitania, 1912-1914

In this lecture, I will describe the situation with the Lusitania on May 1, 1915, as the ship was preparing to embark on her return trip of her 101st voyage from her home in Liverpool, England. There were a lot of supplies being shipped from various companies, but what kinds of munitions were on board? And how did the British secure the regular shipment of military supplies when the United States was officially neutral concerning the War? This lecture will also describe the newspaper ad that warned Americans not to travel on British ships. How would this affect the passengers who were ready to board?

The Lusitania, May 1, 1915

In this lecture, I will describe some of the well-known passengers who boarded the Lusitania on May 1, 1915. Famous persons included Charles Frohman, Rita Jolivet, Charles Klein, Elbert Hubbard, Commander J. Foster Stackhouse, and Charles Lauriat. However, the most famous person on board was Alfred Vanderbilt. This lecture will describe these and other persons on the ship. We will also examine one person's letters concerning her upcoming trip on the Lusitania.

The Passengers
The Final Voyage
7 Lectures 01:01:39

In this lecture, I will describe the German submarine, the U20, and her captain, Walther Schwieger. We will also examine life on the U-boats. Unknown to Captain Schwieger and the other U-boat captains, their radio transmissions were being picked up by the British and de-coded. The British therefore became aware of this new mission of U-boats sent out to destroy British shipping. Winston Churchill, the leader of the Royal Navy, seemed to welcome American casualties in the war zone around England, as that might draw the United States into the War on the side of England. The U20 had some success, and had only a short time left in the area before needing to return home to refuel.

The U20 Submarine

In this lecture, we will focus on the Lusitania on May 6, a day before she entered the war zone, and on May 7, when she entered the war zone. We will note the radio warnings sent to Captain Turner, as well as his strategy for making it through to Liverpool. Finally, we'll examine how the U20 spotted the Lusitania, and made an attempt to put itself in position to attack. Captain Turner will give an order that unwittingly will seal the Lusitania's doom.

Lusitania, May 6-7, 1915

This lecture describes the initial responses to the successful torpedo attack of the U20 upon the Lusitania. We will consider the damage to the ship and her ability to control the ship, and the work of the passengers and crew to save themselves by launching the lifeboats. How will the men do in helping the women and children?

The Struggle for Survival

In this lecture, we will talk about some of the individual responses of persons on the sinking Lusitania. Many people were trying to help family and friends, but there was much chaos and the listing of the ship made lifeboat launches difficult.

The Struggle for Survival - Part 2

This lecture will survey the story of the passengers and the crew on the starboard side of the Lusitania, struggling to launch the lifeboats. The ship eventually reached a thirty degree angle in its list, which made launching these lifeboats very difficult. There were other reasons why the lifeboats were very difficult to successfully launch, and these will be explained as well.

The Starboard Side Lifeboats

In this lecture, we will move from the starboard side of the sinking Lusitania to the port side. How well did the passengers and crew on this side launch the lifeboats? We will see that there were even more challenges on this port side. All of this was made worse by an unusual order of Captain Turner.

The Port Side Lifeboats

This lecture will focus upon those passengers and crew left in the water surrounding the Lusitania, which soon sank completely. The ship itself was a hazard to many people, and the water temperature was very cold. Some crewmen distinguished themselves in rescuing people in the water and floating on debris. We will also note the uneventful trip back to base of the U20.

The Survivors in the Water
After the Voyage
12 Lectures 01:42:52

In this lecture, we will follow the rescue attempts from the various small boats that heard about the Lusitania. Many of these boats had to row there, since there was no wind that day. We will also focus upon Queenstown, where the survivors and dead were taken. This town did all they could to relieve the suffering of the survivors, and they had difficulty handling all of the bodies.


This lecture will survey the American response to the sinking of the Lusitania. Many early reports to the United States were mistaken as to the details. President Woodrow Wilson took the news hard, but decided against military retaliation, or entering the war. However, German and American politicians often sparred through the press. Former President Theodore Roosevelt was particularly outspoken in calling for retaliation and entering the war. The story of the Lusitania also came into popular music and the stage.

The American Response

This lecture will describe the response in Germany to the Lusitania sinking. Initially, Captain Schwieger and the crew of the U20 were heralded as heroes. However, as world public opinion was harshly against Germany, the German government and military changed their minds. One German created a medal concerning the Lusitania that mocked the British and Americans. Did the sinking of the Lusitania help or hinder German war efforts? We'll discuss this as well.

The German Response

This lecture will survey the British response, which included many anti-German riots, especially in Liverpool, the home of the ship. Many of the crew lived there. This lecture will also finish the story concerning the medal struck by Mr. Goetz, and how the British will use this medal as an effective propaganda tool.

The British Response

In this very short lecture, I will provide the latest casualty statistics from the Liverpool Museum. These include the number and casualty percentages concerning the total number of people on the ship, the American passengers, the passengers, the crew, the saloon, 2nd class, and 3rd class passengers, infants and children, and finally, male and female statistics.


This lecture will discuss the blame for the sinking of the Lusitania, and there are many recipients, including the Cunard Company, Captain Turner, and the Royal Navy. Winston Churchill did much to avert blame to the Navy, and direct that blame to Captain Turner. This lecture will also describe the Lord Mersey Inquiries, which ascribed full blame to the German government. Finally, we will discuss the legal cases in the United States against the Cunard Company. The Mixed Claims Commission was formed and eventually Germany paid some reparations to claimants in 1925.

Who Was To Blame?

This lecture will begin the conversation concerning the underwater exploration and salvage of the Lusitania. There was no shortage of persons wanting to dive on the Lusitania, but despite their optimism, none were able to locate the ship. Peress and Demetrious finally located the ship in 1935, and they descended to the ship, though the diver could not stay long. The war drums of Adolf Hitler discouraged the British government from allowing any more dives on the Lusitania then, because they didn't want to provoke Germany.

Early Underwater Explorations

This lecture will survey the various underwater explorations of the Lusitania after World War 2. Various individuals and organizations have received permission to dive there. This has resulted in some artifacts being brought to the surface, including three of the four propellers. Robert Ballard's work will be described, as he did some extremely important work at the Lusitania site with his robotic and mini-subs. Finally, the controversies concerning rights to dive on the Lusitania site will be discussed, as well as some of the recent Lusitania documentaries.

Recent Underwater Explorations

In this lecture, we will discuss a point that is often debated, namely, what caused the second explosion shortly after the torpedo struck the Lusitania? I will be quoting from Robert Ballard concerning his view, which is that the explosion came from the ignited coal dust in those coal bunkers. This lecture will also discuss another view, which is that gun cotton exploded from the torpedo striking the cargo area.

The Second Explosion

This lecture will provide an epilogue in order to see how many of these characters or organizations fared afterward. The persons showcased include Captain Walther Schwieger, Winston Churchill, Captain Bill Turner, Rita Jolivet, Professor Ian Holbourn, Avis Dolphin, George Kessler, and Warren Pearl and family. We also will consider the future of the U20, the Cunard Company, and the town of Queenstown.


This lecture will put forth some conclusions and questions to think about concerning the Lusitania. First, I consider the Lusitania ship, which is an unfortunate victim in many ways. Second, we will focus on those two separate groups, the passengers and crew, and the military and their governments, each with their systems of communication. Between these two groups were the Cunard Company and the pro-German activists and Count Bernstorff. Finally, the study of the Lusitania raises two important ethical issues, namely, the British use of civilians on their liners that were functioning as merchant cruisers, and second, the German attack on a passenger liner.


In this last short lecture, we consider the many ways the Lusitania story simmered in the hearts and minds of the British and Americans. This included the British use of the German medal, and many pieces of art, often presented on posters. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, the Lusitania was still vividly in the American memory.

The Lusitania in Memory, 1915-1917
About the Instructor
Gerald Franz
4.7 Average rating
416 Reviews
11,561 Students
9 Courses
Professor of history

Dr. Franz has been teaching history for 32 years in various colleges, and sometimes to high school students. He has written a number of historical dramas for his history students, and after one season's performance, he received a letter of commendation from former president George Bush, Sr. for making history alive to students today. He has also taken history students on a number of field trips to various important historical locations. He hopes to continue putting short history courses on Udemy in order to share his favorite historical events. He currently teaches many online history courses for various universities, along with various live classes in his area.

He has been married for over 33 years to Wendy, and they have a son and daughter, both adults. They also have a few cats and a big German Shepherd dog. In their spare time, they love to walk, jog, swim, and ride their bikes.