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Newsreels by Poppy Simpson and Gemma Starkey
Introduction What Is a Newsreel? A Year in Newsreels War & the Newsreels Watching Newsreels  
A Year in Newsreels

1913: an interesting and significant year not least because the world was teetering on the brink of the First Great War. In Britain, George V was on the throne and the Liberal Asquith was prime minister, and while London Underground celebrated its 50th anniversary, the world of film saw a continuing rise of purpose-built picture houses as the nation's appetite for the medium steadily grew.

What can we learn about prewar Britain from the newsreels of 1913? What do the films from this year show us, or perhaps, more crucially - what don't they show? Luckily a substantial amount of newsreel footage from this year still survives, and what is surprising, if we view this material as a whole, is the lack of evidence of any gathering prewar tensions we might expect to see. Topical Budget's output during this year primarily focuses on frivolous and trivial subject matter such as royalty, the weather, local fairs and pageants, and lots of sport - Motor Racing at Brooklands (Topical Budget 90-1), Otter Hunting (102-1), Cowes Regatta (102-1) and Wedding of Lady Edwina Roberts (79-2) set the general upbeat tone.

However, there are a few more 'serious' items and some which hint at rising political tensions - among them Launch of H.M.S. Lowestoft (87-2), Our New Super-Destroyer (114-1) and March on Whitehall (103-1). There are also several glimpses of American soldiers in training, as in New Jersey State Troops (103-2) and American Manoeuvres (111-2). Let's not forget, too, that 1913 was an important yet tragic year in the history of women's struggle for the vote.

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