We’re so used to seeing moving pictures of the distant past in scratchy, indistinct, black-and-white shadows that have the look of old, poorly-preserved silent movies. That’s why, whenever I find images of the past that defy that paradigm, I’m eager to share them with you. Here in this 4 1/2 minute compilation are numerous scenes taken in Germany, principally in Berlin but a few in Munich, in the early years of the 20th century. There’s no telling exactly when these pictures were taken, but as we’re looking obviously at Imperial Germany and some of the later footage includes German soldiers marching off to war, I conclude this film contains clips taken as early as 1900 up until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

This is a pretty amazing video by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the color is obviously artificially applied to black and white footage, but you’d be surprised how much genuine color footage of the distant past still exists today. Through the miracle of YouTube, what would otherwise have been locked in a film archive for eternity is now available to see as many times as you want.

German society just before World War I was a beautiful, proud but ultimately fragile construction. Sometimes it takes a visual document like this to impress upon us just how much change that war brought to the world.