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Intelligence Communities, the Cold War, and Decolonization


Admission requirements

This course is designed for the minor Intelligence Studies. It is not possible to follow single courses of this minor. You need to be enrolled in Usis for the minor to be accepted to this course. There are 180 places open for registration, on a first come first serve basis, where LDE students are given priority.

This course is also open for inbound exchange students if they wish to take the entire minor Intelligence Studies; it is not possible to take single courses from this minor. Exchange students must be admitted by the FGGA International Office prior to the start of the minor; priority will be given to direct exchange partners of FGGA. For more information about the application procedure for exchange students, please contact the FGGA International Office at


When we picture the activities of intelligence agencies and security services in international affairs and national security, popular culture and imaginations frequently direct us to Cold War imagery. This is because throughout that global competition to shape the international system in the interests and ideology of its superpower protagonists, national intelligence and security communities from the liberal capitalist and authoritarian communist blocs and non-aligned states were on the frontline.

Intelligence officers from the United States to the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China, clandestinely collected information on their adversaries’ intentions and capabilities for their political and military leaders to gain decision- and competitive-advantage. They sought to protect state secrets from their adversaries through counter-intelligence and counter-espionage. And they covertly supported operations to politically and ideologically influence states and societies around the world in what has been termed a ‘total Cold War’. This included not only targeting adversaries and, indeed, ostensible allies, but also many newly independent nations across the Global South (then called the ‘Third World’) decolonising from European rule in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The governments of these new states, including their own embryonic intelligence and security services, faced decisions regarding aligning with one of the superpower blocs or charting their own non-aligned course.

This course consequently examines:
1. The roles, impacts, successes and failures of intelligence collection and analysis for maintaining stability and managing crises, counter-intelligence, international cooperation, and covert action on the Cold War frontline
2. The interaction between the intelligence communities of the Cold War superpowers and those across the decolonising Global South
3. What difference these intelligence communities ultimately made to the course of the Cold War and political transitions across the Global South
4. And the Cold War’s legacies within its principal intelligence communities.

Course objectives

After finalising this course, students are able to:

  1. Understand the influence of the Cold War and decolonisation on superpower and Global South intelligence and security communities
  2. Explain why intelligence communities served on the frontline of the Cold War and what difference they made to its course and outcomes
  3. Draw on declassified empirical evidence from several different national Cold War and post-colonial contexts to inform their understanding of central concepts in Intelligence Studies
  4. Debate the controversies that the use of intelligence and security services in these different fields provoked at the time and since
  5. Track the changes and legacies that have emerged in superpower and Global South intelligence and security services from the Cold War and decolonisation eras.


The timetable will be displayed with a link on this course page, the website, Brightspace and on the front page of this minor programme.

Mode of instruction

7 interactive lectures of 3 hours by instructors (and guest lecturers).

Assessment method

Mid term exam (30%)

  • 30% of total grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade can be compensated

Final essay (70%)

  • 70% of total grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit possible (choosing from a different set of questions)

  • Resit will take the same form

Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Brightspace.

Late hand in penalty: 1 minus per day, and after three days the assignment will no longer be accepted.

In the case of written assessment methods, the examiner can always initiate a follow-up conversation with the student to establish whether the learning objectives have been met.

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.

Reading list

See the syllabus uploaded in Brightspace before the course commences.


Registration via MyStudymap or uSis is possible from TBA after registration for the entire minor.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap/Usis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course. Furthermore, announcements and modifications will be communicated via Brightspace. Students have the responsibility to stay informed and are thus advised to regularly check Brightspace for updates.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis.


If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to


This course can only be taken as part of the minor Intelligence Studies.
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.