An introduction by Michael Herman

Intelligence services are now sizeable and permanent organs of the modern state. They are central to defence against terrorism, and a focus of constant public interest and controversy.  For many years the secrecy surrounding them made them the missing dimension of modern scholarship. In recent years, however, the discipline of ‘intelligence studies’ has emerged as a legitimate branch of modern history, political science, defence analysis, and other specializations.  Intelligence has begun to receive the academic attention it warrants as part of the global information world.

Aberystwyth has played a leading part in this development. From the early days of intelligence studies it has recruited scholars in this field and has encouraged them to develop it.  Teaching it as part of the curriculum began in 1991/2, and now comprises four master’s courses and the only undergraduate programme in this country. Aberystwyth is unquestionably among the first flight of the 13 British universities at which intelligence is offered in this way.

But the subject is still young, with a long way to go. Intelligence studies is still centred on the US, UK and other English-speaking models, and intelligence elsewhere is almost unexplored. It is still only scratching the surface of the wide range of potential topics. Examples of those needing attention are the scope for ‘international intelligence’ supporting the United Nations, public attitudes to intelligence services, the impact of global terrorism on the balance between surveillance and civil liberties, and the effects of secrecy on intelligence’s efficiency and morale.  Many important subjects of these kinds call out for scholarship, and the available effort is still so thin ...So I am delighted that  ‘intelligence studies’ have been recognized as a distinctive discipline in its own right by the establishment of the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, one of the first of its kind in this country. ‘Distinctive’ does not mean separate or self-contained.  Understanding intelligence needs to draw on other disciplines; but on equal terms. It is to everyone’s advantage that intelligence at Aberystwyth has been enfranchised in this way.

I offer my congratulations to all those in the Department of International Politics who have made this possible, and my best wishes and keen interest for the future.

Michael Herman

British intelligence practitioner 1952-87; writer and teacher 1987-;

Honorary Departmental Fellow, Department of International Politics.