From the Dark Ages

King Arthur and his legendary Knights of the Round Table; the heroic King of Wessex, Alfred the Great; hordes of Viking invaders – there’s nothing like a good early-medieval tale. Nostalgia for the Dark Ages is nothing new and we’ve put together a collection of material on people revelling in the trappings of that period and culture.

Strictly speaking, there weren’t really any “Dark Ages”. They are more a creation of popular culture than any historical reality and academics today discourage use of the term as judgemental and inaccurate. Indeed, many inventions of the so-called Dark Ages are still in use today, so there’s much to celebrate in the era after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

In this post, we celebrate just a few things that have survived from the Dark Ages into the Twentieth Century through footage within the British Pathé archive. More clips can be found in our collection here.

1. The foundation of the English language

It wouldn’t be easy for us to pick up a 5th-century Old English manuscript and read it like we would a modern-day novel. Indeed, here is a short passage from Beowulf, written some time between the 8th and the 11th centuries:

Hwæt. We Gardena    in gear-dagum,
þeodcyninga,     þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas     ellen fremedon.

Translated, this would be:

What. We of the Spear-Danes  in old days of the people-kings,    power heard, how the princes    brave deeds did.*

It is hard to believe that this Old English passage bears much relation to our own language, but this is the root of the way we write and speak; a language which would evolve over the centuries; a language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Dan Brown.

Ernest Hemingway, a 20th century author making use of a language invented during the "Dark Ages", in a still from a newsreel announcing his suicide. Click the still to view the 1961 film.
Ernest Hemingway, a 20th century author making use of a language invented during the “Dark Ages”, in a still from a newsreel announcing his suicide. Click the still to view the 1961 film.

2. English Christianity

In 597 AD, the Benedictine monk Augustine arrived on the pagan shores of early-medieval Britain on a mission to spread Christianity on behalf of the Pope. Augustine is known as the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that has survived to the present day.

Dr. Geoffrey Fisher blesses the congregation following his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1945. Click the still to view the film.
Dr. Geoffrey Fisher blesses the congregation following his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1945. Click the still to view the film.

3. The Blast Furnace

The first to invent the Blast Furnace were the Chinese in the 5th century. Western Europe, on the other hand, would not catch up until the 12th century. But the “Dark Ages” did introduce something similar and very close to it. That was the Catalan forge, created in Catalonia, Spain during the 8th century.

This 1940s education film details the workings of the blast furnace, an invention of the "Dark Ages". Click the still to view the film.
This 1940s education film details the workings of the blast furnace, which was preceded by a similar invention from the “Dark Ages”. Click the still to watch.

4. The Horseshoe

Nailed horseshoes were an innovation of the “Dark Ages”, possibly from the 9th century, allowing horses to more easily traverse difficult territory without causing harm to their hooves.

A look at the work of village blacksmith Arthur Booth. Near Darlington, Durham, 1943. Click the still to view the film.
A look at the work of village blacksmith Arthur Booth. Near Darlington, Durham, 1943. Click the still to view the film.

5. The English Navy

The earliest references to ships used by English kings in battle come from the “Dark Ages”. It was the threat of Viking invaders that propelled the formation of a navy on a large scale during the course of the 9th century, particularly under King Alfred the Great. Over the centuries, Britain grew into the world’s greatest maritime power, before declining significantly in influence during the 20th century.

'"Rule Britannia!" Pictures to thrill every British heart (taken by special permission) during Atlantic Battle Fleet Manoeuvres.' Click the still to view this 1928 newsreel.
“Rule Britannia! Pictures to thrill every British heart (taken by special permission) during Atlantic Battle Fleet Manoeuvres.” Click the still to view this 1928 newsreel.

6. Sheriffs

The office of sheriff has had a varying meaning depending on the period and the particular country. In England it is now a ceremonial position, but in the 10th century it was a “keeper of the peace” appointed by the king and was known as a “shire reeve”, somewhat akin to the modern-day American police officer.

Almost every Sheriff in Britain is at the ceremony of Exeter's 400th anniversary in this 1937 film. Click the still to view it.
Almost every Sheriff in Britain is at the ceremony of Exeter’s 400th anniversary in this 1937 film. Click the still to view it.

7. The English Monarchy

Alfred the Great was the first to style himself as “King of the English”, but it was King Aethelstan in the 10th century who really ruled what we would consider to be an English kingdom. Polls show that the British have no desire to rid themselves of this historic institution.

The Queen is crowned in this colour footage of the coronation. Click the still to view the film.
The Queen is crowned in this colour footage of the coronation. Click the still to view the film.

Can you think of any more? Object to any of our choices? Leave us a comment.

You can find all of the above films and many more in this collection.

* Source: http://www.nvcc.edu/home/vpoulakis/Translation/beowulf1.htm

Pathé’s Undersea Antics

Continuing our series on “Alternative Pathé“…

There’s plenty in the British Pathé archive for those not so interested in history and British politics. For those more intrigued by science and technology, British inventions both good and bad got a great deal of coverage from the Pathé cinemagazines. More specifically, there are some fascinating clips concerning underwater exploration to be found within the Pathé collection as well as some more general underwater footage. Here are some highlights from our Underwater Adventures.

Filmmaker and explorer James Cameron recently dived the Mariana Trench. This newsreel documents the only other such trip - by the United States Navy in 1960. Click the still to view the film.
Filmmaker and explorer James Cameron recently dived the Mariana Trench. This newsreel documents the only other such trip – by the United States Navy in 1960. Click the still to view the film.
Using somewhat more primitive technology, a record dive was completed in 1934. Sponsored by the National Geographic Society, a record descent into the Atlantic was completed. Click the still to view the film.
Using somewhat more primitive technology, a record dive was completed in 1934, Sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Click the still to view the film.
Some pioneering technology can be seen in this 1960 footage of a new sub designed by the famous French explorer Jacques Cousteau. Click the still to view the film.
Some pioneering technology can be seen in this 1960 footage of a new sub designed by the famous French explorer Jacques Cousteau. Click the still to view the film.
Subs aren't always required however, and these eerie underwater images of HMS Breconshire, sunk by German aircraft in 1942, were taken by a scuba diver. Click the still to view the film.
Subs aren’t always required however, and these eerie underwater images from the deck of HMS Breconshire, sunk by German aircraft in 1942, were taken by a scuba diver. Click the still to view the film.
Relics are often recovered from such wrecks. This object comes from the Dunbar. Click the still to view the film.
Relics are often recovered from such wrecks. This object comes from the Dunbar. Click the still to view the film.
Divers aren't just interested in man-made wrecks. Footage in the archive covers underwater dinosaur bones, marine life and vegetation. There's a reasonable amount of colour clips too.
Divers aren’t just interested in man-made wrecks. Footage in the archive covers underwater dinosaur bones, marine life and vegetation. There’s a reasonable amount of colour clips too.
It's not all work and study though. There are many quirky clips of fun under the sea, including the underwater tea party seen in this still from the 1950s.
It’s not all work and study though. There are many quirky clips of fun under the sea, including the underwater tea party seen in this still from the 1950s.

This is just a small selection of the types of clips on offer within the archive. More footage of undersea technology, wreck dives, marine biology and archaeology, and a great deal of fun can be found on our website.

(_FISH_UNDERWATER_1_)_57

Visit British Pathé’s collection of Underwater Adventures by clicking here.

Pathé News on the Vietnam War

22nd November marks forty years since the first B52 bomber was shot down in the Vietnam War in 1972. Although we have no coverage of that particular incident, the anniversary has prompted us to search our archive and to take a look at our other footage of that controversial conflict. Here we present a brief summary.

The war was indeed divisive, as these images reveal. They are from the 1968 Vietnam War demonstrations held in Trafalgar Square, London. The clips can be found in this collection: Vietnam demonstrations British Pathé and the BBC also produced a brief summary of the demonstrations for our A Day That Shook The World series. The episode can be viewed here.

As well as the political situation in London, the British Pathé archive also holds combat footage, filmed with the American troops. This material is often forgotten, lost among the overwhelming amount of first and second world war coverage within the archive. Much the same can be said of our Korean War holdings (outlined here).

A B-52 bomber is loaded and takes off from a runway in Vietnam. Click the still to view the film.

The footage is wide-ranging. Included are political discussions and conferences, such as those held in the United Nations, between the different parties; the preparations for battle and the troops in their camps; Bob Hope entertaining the US soldiers; troops on patrol; bombs dropped and rockets being fired; Australian soldiers returning home; and general coverage of Vietnam, such as women working in a field and life in Hanoi.

Possibly also of interest are the A Day That Shook The World episode chronicling the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and this broader Vietnam collection. More can be found simply by searching the website (a simple search for “Vietnam” reveals 321 clips!)

A somewhat random selection of stills from the footage provides a taste of what the archive has to offer:

An American ship fires two rockets. Click the still to view the film.
Bombs are dropped from US planes. Click the still to view the film.
Helicopters land.
An injured guerilla is carried off on a stretcher by American forces. Click the still to view the film.
An American fighter takes off from an aircraft carrier. Click the still to view the film.
South Vietnamese troops on patrol. Click the still to view the film.
Nixon prepares to deliver a speech.
A normal day in Hanoi, 1974.

These clips serve as a reminder of that terrible waste of human life – the Vietnam War, 1955-1975.

You can view a selection of British Pathé’s Vietnam combat footage by clicking here or you can explore our broader Vietnam collection