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Title: 'Secret towns' : British intelligence in Asia during the Cold War
Author: Shah, Nikita
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 3483
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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The British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) remains one of the most obscure and elusive government agencies. Despite its rich and often tangled past, the SIS withstood various challenges in the twentieth century to become a vital instrument in Britain’s foreign policy, offering both traditional intelligence gathering, and a covert action capability. Despite recent revelations about its Cold War history, knowledge about this organisation is uneven at best, and this is particularly so in Asia. Despite Britain’s imperial history, which anchored informal intelligence gathering networks on a global scale, SIS’s presence in Asia is largely undiscovered. This thesis asks why this lacuna exists in SIS’s history; what was SIS activity in this region during the Cold War? Moreover, what was the value of this activity? Utilising a primarily archival methodology, this thesis sheds light on British intelligence activity in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Hanoi in the late 1960s. The strategic aims are twofold. Firstly, it explores the kinds of intelligence gathered, and the difficulties encountered from operating within the heart of a secure communist state in order to gauge an ‘enemy society’. In doing so, it challenges conventional definitions of intelligence, pointing to the notion of a dual identity diplomat-intelligence officer, that provided alternative means of acquiring intelligence within denied areas. In this way, it opens a window into a new dimension of SIS history, and, by extension, GCHQ, both of whom operated from the grey space between diplomacy and intelligence. Secondly, it examines this intelligence through the broader framework of the Anglo-American Special Relationship, given that these three case study countries were areas where the SIS operated, but where the CIA encountered real hindrances due to a lack of diplomatic premises. By tracing the path of British intelligence material, and analysing its reception by its American audience, it ultimately assesses the value of such intelligence. It argues that the granular detail afforded, and the insight on broader strategic relationships it provided, inverted the Special Relationship, rendering Britain a valued partner when it came to intelligence collection in this region and off-setting imbalances elsewhere.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JN Political institutions (Europe)