The Independent and the Hulton Getty Picture Collection's photo- history of the 20th century arrives at 1991. On 17 January Baghdad felt the shudder from Allied planes dropping bombs over Saddam Hussein's capital. The deadline had passed on the UN resolution giving Saddam until 15 January to pull his troops out of Kuwait. However, it was not a deal on his terms, as neither the Iraqi withdrawal nor the freeing of all the hostages held by Iraq was negotiable. Saddam Hussein's information officer threatened that Bush would "repent" taking action, but, with an Allied force of 700,000 and contingents from 30 countries instigating the aerial bombardment of military targets and communications centres in Iraq and Kuwait, by 28 February the war was over. Saddam had agreed to withdraw his forces from Kuwait - though he told that his subjects that he had won the war.

The Gulf War brought forth two major developments: environmental vandalism, and the first war to be screened live on television. Saddam Hussein had deliberately released oil from Kuwaiti stations into the Gulf to prevent an Allied amphibious landing. The toll on the environment was incalculable, as testified by the sight of oil wells burning out of control and producing a dense pall of smoke that turned day into night. At the time, experts suggested that it would take more than 20 years for some areas to recover fully. Many will remember the shock of turning on their television sets in the early hours of the morning and seeing Iraqi missiles shooting across the sky, and laser-guided bombs exploding on their targets.

Crop circles - geometric patterns found in fields - had been seen before, but caused a sensation this year when they appeared across Britain, the US and Germany. Many considered that they were the result of local weather conditions, or a wave of copycat hoaxes, but naturally some of the media preferred the more exciting possibility of alien handiwork. Eventually two retired artists from Southampton confessed that they had made many of the first circles by means of a wooden pole and a piece of rope. Some were still not convinced, preferring maybe to look to other worlds as an alternative to the harsh realities faced by humankind.

Photo 98 is a series of national events and exhibitions. For information, contact 01484 559 8788 or

A current exhibition: `The Unexplained Part 1: Weird World' looks at puzzling phenomena, including flying saucers and the imprint of the Turin shroud. At the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Exile, Upper Parkgate, Little Germany, Bradford, BD1 5BJ (01274 203 300).