Communist history, police history and the archives of British state surveillance

Twentieth Century Communism - ISSN 1758-6437
Volume 2019 Number 17

Communist history, police history and the archives of British state surveillance
Kevin Morgan pages -


In Britain as in other countries security service files have come to provide an important resource for the writing of communist history. This paper discusses some of practical, ethical and methodological challenges they pose for historians. In Britain the selective release of small batches of redacted files was undertaken from the 1990s as part of the post-Cold War rebranding of the MI5 state security service. No meaningful public consultation took place regarding the principles governing the release of these materials. Nor were details made available of the scope of state surveillance or of the individuals and organisations subjected to it. The lack of transparency and accountability was compounded by the asymmetry between observers and observed and the withholding of information regarding the identities, associations and career histories of security operatives. Drawing on published and unpublished examples, the paper characterises this as a project for the ‘securitisation’ of communist and wider left history: one that seeks to validate MI5’s past and continuing role by accentuating issues of espionage while filtering and in many cases destroying evidence of the routine surveillance of political and social movement activism.

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Purchase an annual Personal Subscription
    PRINT + DIGITAL personal subscription (£30 / year)
    DIGITAL personal subscription (£25 / year)
    A Personal Subscription provides immediate access not only to the single article you are seeking, but also to all past and future articles in this journal up to the expiry of your annual (calendar year) subscription.
  4. Purchase immediate access to this single article (UK£7.00) - Buy article Coming Soon

To cite this article
Kevin Morgan (2019) Communist history, police history and the archives of British state surveillance, Twentieth Century Communism, 2019(17), -

Share this