Secret Intelligence in the 20th century

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Sonke Neitzel EAS.E603


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University). This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This new PGT course is analysing the genesis, operational work and cultural outcome of secret intelligence in 20th century. Besides it is analysing cultural, political and military aspects of the subject in all periods of the 20th century. It provides the students with the historical and cultural background of today's intelligence work. From the late nineteenth century, the growth of nationalism and social and technological change fundamentally altered the way in which wars were waged and the system of international relations. In Europe and the USA, this initiated a process of professionalization, technologisation, and scientification within the military intelligence services, also affecting the way in which they gathered registered and recorded and evaluated information. The course will start with the time around 1900 to analyse myths on espionage and treason (especially regarding public opinion, i.e. in novels or in movies), the genesis of modern intelligence services, the different nature of Secret Intelligence work of the Great Powers, and their specific cultural background in using HUMINT and SIGINT. It will culminate by discussing the influence of Secret Intelligence on diplomacy and warfare in all periods of the 20th century (pre-1914, WW I, interwar-period, WW II, Cold War, post 1990). It examines to what extent co-ordination between national secret service traditions, their various cultural representations in literature and the media, and practical intelligence work gave rise to specific national cultures of intelligence. It will also clarify to what extent and in which areas patterns of secret service work crossed national boundaries, for example, as the result of transnational interaction. The course investigates this process mainly in Britain, in the USA and in Germany but will also include to some extent France, Italy and the Soviet Union (other countries can be included, depending on the language knowledge of the students).


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

They will also sit a mock exam in the summer term.

Indicative reading

R J Aldrich, The hidden hand: Britain, America and Cold War secret intelligence, London 2002.
C Andrew, The Defence of the Realm. The Authorized History of the MI 5, London 2010.
C Andrew, Secret Service. The Making of the British Intelligence Community, London 1985.
K Jeffery , MI 6: the history of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, London 2010
R Jeffreys-Jones, Cloak and dollar: a history of American secret intelligence, New Haven, London 2002.
J C Schmeidel, Stasi: shield and sword of the party, London 2008
S Twigge, E Hampshire, G Macklin, British Intelligence. Secrets, Spies and sources, London 2008
D Kahn, Intelligence Studies on the Continent. In: Intelligence and National Security 23/2 (2008), p. 249-275.
W Krieger, German Intelligence History: A Field in Search of Scholars. In: Intelligence and National Security 19/2 (2004), p. 185-198.
M Pöhlmann, German Intelligence at War, 1914-1918. In: Journal of Intelligence History 5 (Winter 2005), p. 33-62.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information