Fraser McGowan

Ph.D. Candidate (History)

History, School of Humanities, College of Arts

Research title: Intelligence culture as intelligence practice: the U.S. National Intelligence Council, 1979-1991

Research Summary

I am researching the history of the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) from its inception in December 1979 until the end of the Cold War in January 1991. The NIC was, and is, the U.S. intelligence community's centre for mid and long-term strategic intelligence analysis. The national intelligence officers who served on the NIC in the 1980s were responsible for national-level analysis on a wide range of topics, including 'old threats' such as the U.S.-Soviet strategic balance and nuclear proliferation, and 'new threats' like the rise of artificial intelligence, global terrorism, and the war on drugs.

My research is underpinned by four key questions: first, how was the NIC structured and organised; second, how did the analytic subculture of the NIC relate to U.S. intelligence culture; third, how did the NIC interact with strategic policymakers; and fourth, how did the NIC understand the strategic threat environment at the end of the Cold War, a pivotal moment in international history when 'old threats' gradually receded and 'new threats' rapidly emerged in their place. I am also engaging with broader questions of whether the U.S. intelligence community anticipated the collapse of the Soviet Union, and whether it politicised its intelligence analyses to exaggerate the Soviet threat to American national security.

Aside from the specifics of my doctoral research, my interests include:

  • Intelligence success and intelligence failure
  • Intelligence cultures and subcultures
  • Intelligence-policy relations
  • Intelligence and international relations during the Cold War
  • Intelligence and international relations during the interwar period


  • College of Arts (University of Glasgow) Ph.D. Scholarship, September 2018-21. This generous scholarship covered the costs of my tuition fees and stipend, allowing me to pursue my doctoral research at the University. 

  • Gordon Studentship in American Studies (University of Glasgow), September 2016-17. This generous studentship covered the cost of tuition and allowed me to earn my postgraduate degree in American Studies, awarded with distinction by the University in November 2017. 


  • European International Studies Association Conference (September 2021). 'Reconceptualising intelligence culture as intelligence practice' (paper).

  • International Studies Association Conference (March 2021). 
    'Reconceptualising intelligence culture as intelligence practice' (paper).
  • Centre for Intelligence & International Security Studies Conference on Intelligence (September 2019). 'Reforming intelligence culture: the Experience of the U.S. Office of National Estimates, 1950-1973 (paper).


During my time as a Ph.D. candidate, I have taught on the following courses: 


  • History 1A: Scotland's Millennium: Kingdom, Union and Nation, c. 1000-2014.
  • History 2A: the Social and Cultural History of Europe, c. 1500-2000. 
  • The Vietnam War in American History and Culture.


  • Intelligence analysis and policymaking.


Additional Information

I regularly participate in research seminars organised by the Andrew Hook Centre for American Studies and the Scottish Centre for War Studies and Conflict Archaeology.

Alongside other colleagues in the history subject area at Glasgow, I am a contributor to Podcasting the Past, a podcast designed to help high school history teachers incorporate groundbreaking historical research in their teaching. The first series of the podcast covered the USA, 1918-1968.

I am an inaugural member of the Reading Group on Intelligence (RGI), a joint initiative organised by Ph.D. candidates in intelligence and security studies at the University of Glasgow and King's College London.

More information about my research is available on the Scottish Centre for War Studies and Conflict Archaeology blog.