British Newsreels, 1911-1930

Culture and Society on Film

This exciting new video resource comprises around 6,000 early twentieth century Topical Budget newsreels drawn from the British Film Institute and Imperial War Museums.

Topical Budget was one of the major British newsreels of the silent era. These silent films, which reached a weekly audience of up to five million, offer fascinating insights into British life, culture and society with subjects ranging from the First World War, the Royal Family, and domestic and international politics through to sport, leisure and fashion.

AM’s innovative platform brings together a digitised collection of the existing Topical Budget newsreel films, preserved by the BFI National Archive and Imperial War Museums, accompanied by contextual and pedagogical features from experts in the fields of early film history and early twentieth century society, and fully accessible descriptive transcripts for each film.

  • ‘Blinded Soldiers Playing Push Ball’ which shows one of the ways in which injured and disabled war veterans were rehabilitated
  • 'That Broadcast “Revolution”!’ – a film depicting actors recording a radio play and demonstrating techniques used to create sound effects providing an interesting insight into the interaction of early film with the development of broadcasting
  • 'Ruin in the Ruhr’ – a film highlighting the desolation in Dusseldorf following the reported partial evacuation by French occupying forces following the First World War. The title card making the bold claim that ‘”Topical” has no politics’
  • 'Eclipse of the Moon’ – documenting a lunar eclipse; showing some of the equipment that was used and a surprisingly detailed close-up of the Moon as seen through the world’s longest telescope at the time
  • 'Canine Heroes’ – dogs who participated in the rescue of sailors from a stricken warship are honoured at Crufts
  • 'Prince’s Bold Bid for Privacy on Holiday’ showing press attempts to photograph and film the Prince going on holiday. Turning the episode into an interesting piece in its own right with a diagram demonstrating how it was believed the Prince was able to evade the press. Resonating with modern relationships between the British Royal Family and the world’s press.

Key data

Period covered


Source archives

  • British Film Institute
  • Imperial War Museums
  • Art and culture
  • Government and politics
  • Military, warfare and conflict
  • Royalty, Empire and foreign relations
  • Society, leisure and sport
  • Women and gender
  • Work and industry
  • Youth and education
  • Video
  • Stephen Badsey, University of Wolverhampton
  • Laura Beers, American University, Washington DC
  • Ciara Chambers, University College Cork, Ireland
  • Toby Haggith, Imperial War Museums
  • Joe Kember, University of Exeter
  • Luke McKernan, independent consultant
  • Sian Nicholas, Aberystwyth University
  • Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish Studies
  • Sociology, Social History and Social Science
  • Visual Culture
  • High-quality streaming and playback rate
  • Easily navigable platform
  • Visually descriptive thumbnail images
  • Curated playlists, clips and bookmarks
  • Time-coded, searchable descriptive transcripts

Supporting material


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