Sir Michael Howard, an official historian of WW2 intelligence, wrote in 1985: ‘So far as official government policy is concerned, the British security and intelligence services do not exist. Enemy agents are found under gooseberry bushes and intelligence is brought by the storks.’
Even the existence of SIS (MI6) was not officially admitted until 1992. Intelligence is still missing from much modern historiography. Even when present, the interpretation often suffers from Historical Attention-Span Deficit Disorder (HASDD). Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations of UKUSA signals intelligence SIGINT operations had a far smaller impact on 21st-century British government policy and public opinion than mid-19th-century revelations of the official interception of Mazzini’s correspondence.
The Seminar will convene this year through a mixture of online and hybrid events; some weeks will feature events organized by the Cambridge Centre for Geopolitics, with whom the Seminar is increasing its collaboration.
In order to attend those events available online, you must be subscribed to our mailing list.
The Zoom link will be distributed in advance of the session.
To subscribe, please email Dr Dan Larsen with a brief indication of your affiliation or interest in the Seminar.
On any technical queries, please email Dr Dan Larsen.
Except where specifically indicated, seminars are not recorded.
5-30 pm BST, Friday 6 October, Jock Colville Hall, Churchill College (Hybrid Presentation):
Professor Calder Walton (Harvard), ‘Spies: The Epic Intelligence War between East and West’
Russian deep-cover operatives arrested in Britain, an alleged Chinese spy in parliament, an eavesdropping balloon floating over the United States, the looming prospect of AI-driven disinformation in the US presidential election in 2024— matters of intelligence and national security crash into news headlines almost every day. Yet when they do so, they frequently lack context.
In this talk, Calder Walton will contextualize them by illustrating some of the principal conclusions of his recently published book, Spies. The Epic Intelligence War between East and West: that as far as the Kremlin is concerned, the twentieth century’s Cold War never really ended. Moreover, the West is in a new Cold War with Russia and China— and have been for some time— with intelligence agencies once again at the frontline. Calder will also discuss one of his book’s most alarming revelations, subsequently confirmed by The New York Times: that in 2020—2021, Russian intelligence was in late-stage planning for an assassination on US soil.
Calder Walton is Assistant Director of the Belfer Center's Applied History Project and Intelligence Project. He is one of the world's leading experts on the history of intelligence, national security, and geopolitics. His research, and commentary, about global security frequently appear in major news and broadcast outlets on both sides of the Atlantic.
Centre for Geopolitics Event:
5-30 BST, Friday 13 October, Keynes Hall, King’s College, Cambridge (In-Person Only):
‘The Changing Geopolitics of Middle East and Prospects for Peace’: A Panel Discussion among Sir John Jenkins, Professor Ali Ansari, Dr Elisabeth Kendall, Professsor Ayse Zarakol, and Dr Elizabeth Monier.
Booking required for attendance (Online Attendance Not Available)
Several significant developments have been ongoing in the Middle East in the last years, such as China’s increased presence and involvement in the region, a relaxation in strained relations between Israel and various Arab Gulf states, and the thawing of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This panel will explore and discuss the ramifications of these regional geopolitical developments and international geopolitical changes – such as the Russo-Ukrainian war – for the prospects of peace and security in the Middle East.
Centre for Geopolitics Event:
5-30 BST, WEDNESDAY 18 October, Knox-Shaw Room, Sidney Sussex College (Videotaped In-Person Event)
Dan Kaszeta (RUSI), ‘The Forest Brotherhood: Baltic Resistance against Nazis and Soviets’
The Centre for Geopolitics is pleased to host an event in which Dan Kaszeta talks to Donatas Kupciunas about his book: The Forest Brotherhood: Baltic Resistance against the Nazis and Soviets. They will discuss the impact of this important history on contemporary geopolitics in the Baltic Sea region. A common view is that the Second World War in Europe ended in May 1945. However, fighting continued for over a decade in the Baltic states. Stuck between Stalin’s USSR and Hitler's Reich the populations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had been subjected to a brutal Soviet occupation in 1940, Nazi invasion in 1941, and Soviet re-occupation in 1944, falsely branded as ‘liberation’.
5-30 pm BST, Friday 27 October (Online Only):
Dr Tim Potier (Fletcher School, Tuft’s University), ‘The War in Ukraine, Russia and its Prospects: Is Intelligence Doomed to Fail?’
Tim Potier was the only Western academic to spend five years teaching and researching at MGIMO, an elite section of Moscow University, before the invasion of Ukraine, as well as during the first month of the Ukraine War. He is Professor of International Law and Senior Fellow, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
Details of seminars in the second half of term will be circulated later