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The Films of Britain series consists of seven booklets, produced between 1939 and 1950. Initially describing itself simply as ‘A List of Documentary Films’, they are produced by TIDA and the British Council Film Department and detail the contents of a variety of documentary films, including those produced by TIDA and the British Council. It appears that the films listed in each catalogue, though not necessarily produced or sponsored by TIDA or the British Council, are the titles that they were distributing or circulating at the time of printing.

The 1939 catalogue was produced by TIDA’s Film Department, with no mention of the British Council. It may thus be assumed that it was published before the outbreak of World War 2, and the department’s absorption into the British Council’s Film Department. Interestingly, though the 1940 edition says that it was produced by the British Council Film Department, the cover features a motif used by TIDA – a ‘Lion of England’ (a possibly crowned

[1] lion, in a ‘passant gardant’ position).

From 1941 the catalogues included stills from a number of the listed films. The 1942-43 issue is the only issue to contain a colour image, which is from Queen Cotton; other titles listed in that issue are Technicolor, but their stills are nonetheless monochrome.

‘These films form part of an effort to portray the face of Britain and her people in their everyday lives and work, as they went about them in the eager, anxious months of a great war. There is no attempt in this series to depict the nation’s war-effort or to state the issues which war raises for ordinary men and women throughout the world. That duty is quite distinct from our purpose, which is directed by a broader design. War propaganda in the narrow sense forms no part of it. Yet is scarcely possible to view this panorama of decent-minded life, of wheels revolving in great industries and public services, of a community which cares for the minds and bodies of its humblest members, without a thought of the challenge of ignorance and brutality confronting it. The challenge overhung it, as these films were made; and then men and women who play their simple parts in them outfaced it daily. But these level-headed studies of British subjects bear little trace of war’s excitement. They show the enduring fabric of freedom and progress, which lives and works long after war-makers have been forgotten.

Philip Guedalla
Chairman, Film Committee
Introduction to Films of Britain 1941


[1] A lion of this type wearing a crown is a symbol of the English royalty. TIDA had the patronage of H.M. King George VI in the mid-thirties. It might be that TIDA wished to promote this fact through the use of such a motif, but chose to make the ‘crown’ ambiguous in the image to avoid potential issues that might arise from their use of the symbol.