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Unit information: Documentary, Society and Conflict in Twentieth Century Ireland in 2016/17

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Unit name Documentary, Society and Conflict in Twentieth Century Ireland
Unit code HIST30045
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Hanna
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Since the term ‘documentary’ was coined in 1926, photographers and film makers allied to the movement have sought to use visual media to provide truthful, socially motivated depictions of the world around them. During the twentieth century, a whole host of filmmakers and photographers have come from all over Europe and further afield to render Ireland, attracted both by its picturesque rural communities and the visual spectacle of its violence. In this unit we will examine a range of documentary films and photographs produced in—and about—Ireland since 1922. We will explore how the documentary tradition has changed since the term was invented, and the devices filmmakers and photographers have employed to imbue their work with a sense of truth. In so doing we will examine the impact that these representations have had on society and conflict in twentieth-century Ireland, and explore how we can use these visual sources to write Irish history. The unit aims to foster a sophisticated grasp of the history of the documentary movement in twentieth-century Ireland and more broadly to develop understanding of methodological and theoretical approaches to the history of visual culture.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit students will have developed:

1. a wide historical knowledge of the history of the documentary movement

2. a sophisticated understanding of the impact of documentary in shaping representations of Ireland in the twentieth century

3. the ability to use a variety of methods and approaches in order to use film and photography as sources

4. the ability to understand, assess, and use a range of theoretical approaches to visual culture

5. the ability to identify and evaluate a range of academic viewpoints and approaches with an acuity appropriate to level H

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

3500 word essay (50%) and 2 hour exam (50%)

Both elements will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Justin Carville, Photography and Ireland (2007)

Eoin Flannery, et al. (ed.), Ireland in Focus: Film, Photography, and Popular Culture (2009)

John Hill, Cinema and Northern Ireland: Film, Culture, and Politics (2006)

Lance Pettitt, Screening Ireland: Film and Television Representation (2000)

John Taylor, War Photography: Realism in the British Press (1991)

Harvey O’Brien, The Real Ireland: The Evolution of Ireland in Documentary Film (2004)