A New History ofDocumentary Film

The third edition of the book includes new research that offers a fresh way to understand how the field began and grew.

Retaining the original edition’s core structure, there is added emphasis of the interplay among various approaches to documentaries and the people who made them. This edition also clearly explains the ways that interactions among the shifting forces of economics, technology, and artistry shape the form.

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Available January 26, 2023. Pre-order on Bloomsbury and get a 10% discount.


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Betsy A. McLane

About the Author

Betsy McLane is the author of the book A NEW HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY FILM: THIRD EDITION. She served as the Project Director for The American Documentary Showcase, a cooperative project of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. For eight years Dr. McLane was the Executive Director The International Documentary Association. She holds an MA and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California School Of Cinematic Arts, and a BA in Cinema and Photography from Ithaca College. She has taught many areas of film and television studies at The University of Vermont, Loyola Marymount, U.C. San Bernadino Palm Desert Campus, National University and The University of Southern California.


“A vital and essential narrative about the evolution of an art form, from its earliest manifestations around the birth of the moving picture to its modern-day diffusion of genres and sub-genres in the digital era.”
―Documentary Magazine
“Betsy McClane makes an important contribution to documentary history. She does an especially good job at shining a light on careers that were previously overlooked.”
―Thom Powers, documentary programmer
"Clearly written, rich with well-researched, historical details, and contemporary critical insights, Betsy A. McLane's A New History of Documentary Film, 3rd ed., informs and analyzes (primarily) English language, nonfiction film, including recent works by women and non-white documentarians. Enhancing understanding and increasing enjoyment, McLane expands our knowledge, placing works within social and cultural, political and personal contexts, illuminating technical and aesthetic elements alike with well-chosen examples. This book is a joy to read with ample illustrations, text, and film recommendations and a useful index."
―Diane Carson, Professor Emerita and Past President, St. Louis Community College and University Film and Video Association, USA
"Documentary film is all around us. Cinema was born non-fictional but the history of film for too long did not devote to documentary the due attention. It was a global shortsightness, not restricted to the anglophile world. Fortunately those days are gone. Building from the groundbreaking work of Erik Barnouw and her own partnership with Jack S. Ellis for the first version of A New History of Documentary Film (2005), Betsy A. McLane regales us with a third, brand new edition, reviewing and updating a book that was already unique and prodigious when last appeared one decade ago. In a single volume here is the evolution of the documentary cinema, introducing the pioneer production of Robert Flaherty and Western European and Soviet documentarists and focusing especially on the USA, UK and Canada experiences, from its first steps to our 21st Century in all its diversity of voices and formats. Elegantly written and full of insights about an ever changing landscape, it is an essential guide for moviegoers, film students, filmmakers and any reader interested in a better understanding of one of the fundamental artistic expressions of an increasingly complex world."
―Amir Labaki, Founder and director, É Tudo Verdade/It's All True International Documentary Film Festival, Brazil, and author of A Verdade de Cada Um - O Documentário na Visão de Seus Principais Realizadores (2015) and Introdução ao Documentário Brasileiro (2006)