Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POC2065: Secrets, Lies and Spies

This module descriptor refers to the 2019/0 academic year.

Please note that this module is only delivered on the Penryn Campus.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Owen Thomas (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


When should prime ministers and presidents deceive the public? When should they deceive each other? Alternatively, should statesmen act openly and honestly with the public and each other? What are the political, as well as ethical, implications of these acts of openness and deception for real life?

This module encourages you to examine the ethics and politics of openness, secrecy and deception in politics, with particular reference to issues of security, foreign policy and international relations, and to the issues raised in liberal democracies and by western political thought. In the first half of the module we will investigate how different approaches to openness and deception in international relations have emerged out of the history of political thought and the history of government. In the second half of the course, we will reflexively consider how these perspectives can be applied, or are in some cases already embedded in, the scholarly analysis of contemporary issues. Topics include: propaganda, the democratic oversight of the intelligence services, the use of transparency as a foreign policy tool, and the ethical and political implications of ‘leaking’.

No prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students. Some knowledge of western modern political thought and International Relations, and a familiarity and enthusiasm for current affairs, will be an advantage.

Module created


Last revised