Charles Pathé (1863-1957) was a pioneer of the moving image, who founded a company with his three brothers in Paris in 1896. A London branch was established in 1902, and by 1910 it was producing the Pathé Gazette twice a week for the country’s growing number of cinemas. The company had many other interests, including cinema equipment, films and audio recordings, but it was best known for its news services.
Pathé news continued to be produced till 1970, so it recorded the world in the twentieth century through two world wars, revolutions and the Great Depression to the postwar years, the Iron Curtain and decolonisation. Over 90,000 clips covering a vast range of subjects have now been made available on the website http://www.britishpathe.com/
These clips are free for the public to stream and view. They contain a fairly obtrusive copyright statement across the foot of the screen, but are still fascinating and enjoyable. They are potentially a treasure trove for anyone interested in social history.
The home page (above) features a different clip each week. When this blog was written, the week of the Australian Open tennis championship, it was a clip of Fred Perry winning that tournament in 1934.
There is a simple search engine, and the collection can be searched in full or under broad categories. A general search for “Library” (I know, but I’m a librarian . . . ) produced a video of (very quiet) activity in the long lost British Museum Library Round Reading Room in 1947, among many other results.
All rights to the material remain with the company, this is not public domain material. Downloading clips for re-use has to be paid for, usually £30 to £40 per clip according to length. However, anyone can create a free user account, which then lets you mark your favourite clips to return to. There is no limit to the number of times you can stream a clip online.