Spooks and Spies: Anglo-American Intelligence and Statecraft, 1909 to the Present

Please note that this course attracts a tuition supplement of £40, to cover the cost of the Bletchley Park field trip.  Once selected and paid for through the online application system this course cannot be dropped.

Dr Thomas Maguire and Frederic Ischebeck-Baum

SpooksSecret Intelligence and state security issues have since the terrorist attacks on 9/11 increasingly occupied the national consciousness. Although portrayed by the traditional media as a predominantly modern invention, the role of secret intelligence in inter-state conflicts can be traced back to the beginning of World War I. This course surveys the birth and evolution of Western Intelligence communities from the early 1900’s through the beginning of the 21st century. Secret Intelligence history is unique among academic disciplines as it attempts to make sense of a necessarily secretive community of both national and foreign policy-makers, counter-terrorism officers, analysts, code-breakers, and field agents. Accordingly, the course will rely on a broad variety of primary, secondary and archival intelligence material in order to elucidate the central themes of the modern intelligence world. The course will begin by tracing the evolution of the security apparatus developed by modern states to carry out clandestine and/or covert activities directed at both national and international targets. The course will additionally aim to bring to light the way policy-makers use, or indeed fail to use, secret intelligence in their decision making process. Finally, the course will explore these episodes within their historical context in order to more accurately demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the intelligence cycle.

IMPORTANT: Students taking this course must purchase their own copy of Christopher Andrew’s book For the President’s Eyes Only. It is strongly recommended that it is bought in advance of travel to Cambridge as sufficient copies will not be available for all students in local shops and libraries.

Reading List


Mid-term Essay: 20%

Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 40%

Final Exam: 40%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)

If you’re interested in this course, you might also like to consider taking International Law/War(fare), or Understanding World Politics: A Critical Overview of Core Issues and Theories.