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From Steam to Screen: Cinema, the Railways and Modernity

From Steam to Screen: Cinema, the Railways and Modernity
Rebecca Harrison

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In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain, there was widespread fascination with the technological transformations wrought by modernity. Films, newspapers and literature told astonishing stories about technology, such as locomotives breaking speed records and moving images seemingly springing into life onscreen. And, whether in films about train travel, or in newspaper articles about movie theatres on trains, stories about the convergence of the railway and cinema were especially prominent. Together, the two technologies radically transformed how people interacted with the world around them, and became crucial to how British media reflected the nation's modernity and changing role within the empire. Rebecca Harrison draws on archival sources and an extensive corpus of films to trace the intertwined histories of the train and the screen for the first time. In doing so, she presents a new and illuminating material and cultural history of the period, and demonstrates the myriad ways railways and cinema coalesced to transform the population's everyday life.

With examples taken from more than 240 newsreels and 40 feature-length films, From Steam to Screen is essential reading for students and researchers working on film studies and British history at the turn of the century and beyond.

Author Info

Rebecca Harrison is a lecturer in British cinema at the University of Glasgow. She received her PhD from University College London, UCL, and has presented her research in peer-reviewed journals and at conferences internationally.


From Steam to Screen uses an extraordinarily productive thematic structure to draw out the myriad of interconnections between cinema, modernity and the railways. Covering class, gender, travel, Empire, space and time, Harrison’s compelling analysis keeps film at the centre yet incorporates a number of issues of wider cultural and historical significance. The book is simply a first-rate, fast-track way into understanding how both cinema and the railways affected people’s lives at key moments in the last century.’ – Sarah Street, University of Bristol

‘Harrison’s important study reveals the entwined histories of the railway and cinema in the early British twentieth century. She explores, using rich archival research, how cinema allows us to access neglected spaces and narratives of the past, uncovering the experiences of women, children and other historically marginalised groups. A fascinating read.’ – Michael Williams, University of Southampton

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781784539153
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2018
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations

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