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Introduction to Secret Affairs


Admission requirements

This course is part of the minor Intelligence Studies. This is the only course within the minor that is also open to students who do not follow the entire minor, for example Exchange Students and Study Abroad Students. Registration in Usis is mandatory. There are 250 places open for registration, on a first come first serve basis, where minor students are given priority.


During the past thirty years the so-called intelligence revolution that took place during the Second World War and the Cold War found its way into academic courses and literature. In many respects intelligence can no longer be called ‘the missing dimension’ of the history of international relations, even though many of its aspects and implications are still missing. This lecture series will put a spotlight on the ‘dark side’ of international relations and the hidden background issues that go on behind the sealed scenes of international relations.

This course will pay attention to the history of intelligence services, the methods of intelligence gathering, intelligence in regard to terrorism and asymmetric warfare. Furthermore, students will be challenged to use their own ‘spy-capacities’ and put themselves in the adversary’s position.

Course objectives

  1. The student is able to explain the different manners of organisation of the services in different countries;
  2. The student is able to describe the possible role and influence of intelligence in international politics and is able to illustrate how states can use intelligence as an instrument of power;
  3. The student is able to mention the most important disciplines of intelligence gathering, explain when to use what different discipline and apply this knowledge to specific situations;
  4. The student is able to give examples of events of historical important in the field of intelligence;
  5. The student is able to give a broad perspective of the work of intelligence and security services and to elaborate on the different points of view and movements within the field.


To be announced

Mode of instruction

7 lectures of 3 hours by instructors and guest lecturers.

Participation in lectures, discussions and exercises is required in order to obtain a grade. One lecture may be missed. Being absent more than once will lead to expulsion from the course.

Assessment method

Mid-term exam

  • 40% of total grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

Final exam

  • 60% of total grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

The Course and Examination Regulation Security Studies and the Rules and Regulation of the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Security and Global Affairs apply.

Transitional arrangements
Grades obtained for this course in previous academic years are no longer valid in academic year 2021-2022.

Reading list

TBA on Brightspace


Registration in uSis is possible from August 16th.
Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups of the minor have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts).
Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.



All sessions will be in English. Exams and assignments need to be written in English.
Please be aware that the resits will take place in January 2022.