Photographs and “Truth” during the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1969–72

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores how photographs were used as evidence during the early Northern Ireland Troubles. In particular, it focuses on the collection and use of images at the Scarman Tribunal, which investigated the disturbances of the summer of 1969, and the Widgery Tribunal, which sought to ascertain the sequence of events surrounding Bloody Sunday. Through close readings of how photographs were used at these two tribunals, the article shows how the existence of certain photographs served to anchor discussions of trajectories of violence around certain places and moments, illustrates how photographs taken for publication in newspapers were reread as evidential documents, and indicates the range of plausible truths each photograph was understood to provide. The study shows the importance of exploring the processes and mechanisms through which the state made sense of Northern Ireland to understand how causal accounts of conflict were produced and authenticated—and how, in turn, those explanatory regimes shaped the policies of the British state and the responses of local communities, and became embedded in historical writing on the Troubles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-480
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of British Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2015


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