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Secrets & Spies: Modern Espionage & Intelligence (Module)

Module description

Study the role of spies and intelligence in culture and politics over the past century. Using a range of literary and historical texts – as well as some documents from the national archives considered ‘top secret’ at the time of their writing – you will examine how spying influenced many of the key political events, both at home and abroad, of the 20th and early 21st centuries – from the Second World War, to the Cold War and the threat of nuclear destruction, to the current focus on terrorism. You will examine the difference between intelligence in democracies and dictatorships, the impact of technology on spying, the relationship between spies, politicians and the media, and ask fundamental questions about what is right or wrong in the spying game. 

The module is taught by King’s academics, and based on a 15 credit King's undergraduate module. It comprises 150 study hours, including teaching time, independent study and group work. A detailed timetable for this module will be available on KEATS from June 2020.

Learning outcomes and objectives

By the end of the module, you should have:

  • Gained insight into the world of espionage and politics in statecraft in peace and war.
  • Built your awareness of the methodologies used in the study of intelligence.
  • Gained a deeper understanding of the operations and methodologies of intelligence agencies in collecting, analysing, disseminating, and acting upon information. And built your awareness of the relationship between the ‘secret world’, the ‘open’ and popular culture more broadly.
  • Broadened your ability to critically assess sources, including primary sources, relating to intelligence studies.
  • Developed an awareness of the political context in which intelligence agencies and spies operate. 

Staff information

Taught by the Department of War Studies, Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy, King's College London.


Teaching pattern

  • Lectures
  • Seminars and tutorials
  • Private study

Module assessment - more information

  • One essay of 3,000 words (85%)
  • One presentation of 1,000 words (15%)

Key information

Module code 4ZSS0113

Credit level 4

Assessment coursework presentation/s

Credit value Classes can often be taken for credit towards degrees at other institutions, and are examined to university standards.  To receive credit for King's summer classes, contact your home institution to ask them to award external credit.  This class is equivalent to an undergraduate degree module and usually awarded 3-4 US credits or 7.5 ECTS.

Semester summer session 2

Study abroad module No