Intelligence Providers and the Fabric of the Late Colonial State

  • Martin Thomas
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


By the early twentieth century information collection and covert policing were well established as building blocks of colonial control. As the social anthropologist Benoît de l’Estoile notes, “administering conquered territories called for the establishment of a colonial order in both the cognitive and political senses of the word ‘order.’”1 Colonial security services were also in rapid, if uneven, evolution. Their development as distinct elites dispensing state violence was generally contingent on the scale of local resistance to colonial control and the perceptions of threat among governing agencies and settler groups. The result was that numerous colonial governments extended the operational range and jurisdictional roles of their police forces, and bureaucratized processes of record keeping, information collection, and intelligence sharing about indigenous populations. Many adapted metropolitan models of police organization to individual colonies and frequently imported domestic security specialists or police and military officers with recent, cognate experience in other dependencies.2 The growth of colonial security services in the British and French Empires was further catalyzed by the local disruption and political destabilization resulting from the impact of world war and, more broadly, by diffuse social pressures among which iniquitous, often highly coercive labor regimes and more widespread labor militancy and proto-nationalist organization stand out.3


Security Force Colonial Government Colonial State Intelligence Community Late Colonial 
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© Martin Thomas 2011

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  • Martin Thomas

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