Consult the list of essay topic. Choose a topic that sounds interesting to you. If you want to work
on a theme or issue that is not included on the list, contact your instructor for approval. Please
note that essays not on the topic list that have not received approval will be given a zero, without
an opportunity for re-submission.
Make sure that there are enough materials available on your topic for you to write a good
research essay. Please reach out to the history librarian, Val Lem, who is working with us this
Try to narrow down the topic so that it is not too broad and general. If you are uncertain about
your subject matter or how to narrow down your topic, contact your instructor for advice and
List of Essay Topics
The essay questions are numbered. Please select only ONE of the questions.
If you want to write your research essay on a topic that is not included on the list, contact
the course instructor for permission.
1. What factors led to the establishment of British intelligence before the First World War?
2. How would you define or explain intelligence? Is it a process or a product?
3. Compare and contrast the intelligence cultures of two or more states.
4. Assess the significance of code-breaking (i.e. signals intelligence) during World War I.
5. Did World War I mark the real beginning of modern intelligence?
6. Compare the successes and failures of the intelligence services of two or more states during the
7. Why was the Soviet intelligence of the 1920s and 1930s distinct?
8. How did demobilization of intelligence affect the interwar period and the preparation for Second
9. To what extent did states like France and Britain overestimate or underestimate the German threat
in the 1930s?
10. Bond versus Leamas: Discuss the two traditions of spy fiction.
11. Discuss the significance of the treatment of espionage in a major spy novel or spy film.
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12. Compare and contrast two or three spy novels or spy films. (This is a history course, so your
essay needs to follow a historical analysis, and not a film analysis.)
13. What roles have women played in the factual and fictional worlds of espionage?
14. Was World War II the real birthplace of modern intelligence? Why or why not?
15. Discuss the value of signals intelligence to the Japanese and to the Americans in the Pacific War
during World War II.
16. Discuss the importance of Ultra to the Allies victory in Europe in World War II.
17. Discuss the role of intelligence in any single battle or operation of the Second World War.
18. How did the espionage of the Magnificent Five affect the evolution of intelligence?
19. What role did American intelligence play in the Cuban Missile Crisis?
20. Discuss American covert operations in one of the following cases: Iran 1946-53, Guatemala 1951-
55, Thailand 1950-1975, Vietnam 1954-1964, Cuba 1959-1963, Congo 1960-1963, Chile 1970-1973,
21. What internal and external forces were viewed as the principal threats to Canadian security from
1864 to 1939 and how did the nation’s intelligence services respond to these concerns?
22. To what extent was the Second World War the real birthplace of Canadian intelligence?
23. Why did “mole-hunting” become a prominent part of Canadian security intelligence? OR Why did
Canadian intelligence become obsessed with the Red Scare?
24. How has Canadian intelligence fared since the emergence of CSIS?
25. How have intelligence communities and states responded to the contemporary threats?
26. What problems have intelligence services encountered in their counter-terrorist activities?
27. What are the most effective measures utilized in counter-terrorist intelligence strategy?
28. Why do intelligence failures occur? Discuss using at least one example.
29. How would you periodize the evolution of intelligence in the 20
th century? Can you identify key
30. Explore the main advantages and disadvantages involved in intelligence cooperation between states.
31. Can an ethical case ever be made for the i) use of torture during interrogation or ii) for assassination?
32. You can trace the evolution of an intelligence agency or institution. For example: CIA, RCMP, CSE,
CSIS, KGB, MI6, OSS, etc.
Note: You need to obtain permission from your instructor to write on this topic.
33. You can trace a (real or fictional) individual’s impact on the evolution of intelligence.
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