In conjunction with the Hulton Getty Picture Library, The Independent reviews a year containing an episode British politics wanted to forget, and a November day America never would.

Over the course of the summer, revelatory accounts of John Profumo's dalliance with the young model Christine Keeler - seen here leaving the Old Bailey with her friend Mandy Rice-Davies - scandalised Parliament and enthralled the nation.

Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, had been introduced to Keeler in 1961 by the society osteopath Stephen Ward, who acted as a go-between in their relationship. British intelligence learned that a Russian naval attache was also Keeler's lover, and - mindful of the naval clerk William Vassall's high-profile conviction for espionage the previous year - discreetly leaned on Profumo to end his relationship with the 20-year-old. Profumo's alleged mishandling of British forces in the Middle East had won him enemies, and now the rumours about his affair with Keeler were compounded by the model's involvement, along with her flatmate Mandy Rice-Davies, in an Old Bailey trial. In March, the minister denied any impropriety to Parliament - a statement which by June he was forced to admit was a lie.

If the beleaguered government had thought that Profumo's resignation would bring the episode to a close, the subsequent trial of Stephen Ward on vice charges kept the headline writers busy with salacious details of parties at Ward's cottage on Lord Astor's Cliveden estate, and of those who had made use of his London mews flat.

In November, the assassination of President Kennedy provoked mourning world-wide. The 46-year-old president had been proceeding in a motorcade to a political festival in Dallas when the fatal shots struck him. Within hours police had seized Lee Harvey Oswald in connection with the attempted murder of the governor of Texas, John Connally, the murder of the 35th President of the US, and the later murder of a policeman. Two days later, however, Oswald, a Communist sympathiser, was himself assassinated by a middle-aged night-club owner, Jack Ruby. "I think ... that he should be given the Congressional Medal of Honour," Ruby's lawyer said of his client.

Kennedy's murder swiftly gave rise to dramatic conspiracy theories involving the Russians, the Cubans and even the Mafia, and the new US president, Lyndon Johnson, gave notice that the Chief Justice, Earl Warren, was to head up a commission under orders to clarify the exact circumstances of Kennedy's death.

`Photo 98' is a series of high-profile national events and exhibitions. For information, call 01484 559 888 or visit www.photo98.com

Currently showing: `Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans'. Drawing on the photographer's book of the same name, this exhibition reflects his passion for all things European. To Sunday at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, London SE1 8XX (0171-928 3144)

Mike Higgins

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