The Secret Lives of Dennis Phombeah: Decolonization, the Cold War, and African Political Intelligence, 1953-1974

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Processes of decolonization in the context of the Cold War provided enormous opportunities for nationalist figures to parlay insider nationalist knowledge into significant metropolitan influence. This article offers an ‘agent-focused’ rather than ‘agency-focused’ approach to the study of Cold War intelligence competition in Africa’s decolonization through a study of the career of Dennis Phombeah, a Nyasalander by birth and Tanganyikan nationalist figure who came to work for multiple foreign intelligence agencies. While itself a single case study, this article suggest that multiple intelligence agencies placed a high premium on acquiring a basic understanding of the internal politics of newly-independent African countries, which were otherwise rendered deliberately opaque by the states themselves as a common sovereignty-preserving device. Using intelligence records from Britain, Czechoslovakia and Portugal, a picture emerges of cross-rival institutional dependency on informants from the peripheries who were empowered by their years at metropolitan centers, offering a challenging perspective to institutional-focused studies of Cold War intelligence.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe International History Review
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 16 2020

Keywords

  • Tanzania
  • MI5
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Portugal
  • Intelligence

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