Simon Willmetts UOH_5302

Dr Simon Willmetts

Lecturer in American Studies

Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education

School of Histories, Languages and Cultures

01482 465790

Simon is a cultural historian of the United States of America who has worked on two major research projects, funded by the AHRC and ESRC respectively.

The first, Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA and US Foreign Policy, examined the public perceptions of the Central Intelligence Agency from its beginnings to the present day.

The second ongoing project, The Common Good: The Ethics and Rights of Cyber Security, focuses on the issues of internet privacy and surveillance in a post-Edward Snowden age.

Simon's contributions to both projects has utilised his expertise as a student and scholar of American popular culture and its intersection with US politics and society.


Research Interests

  • Dystopian fiction

  • Surveillance

  • Intelligence studies

  • Film history

  • Cultural theory

  • US foreign policy

Research groups

The Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA and the Contested Record of US Foreign Policy - AHRC-funded research collaboration (2008-2012)

The Common Good: The Ethics and Rights of Cyber Security - ESRC-funded research collaboration (2015-2017)

Out of the Shadows: Teaching Covert Action in Schools - British Academy-funded project (2017-date)



In Secrecy's Shadow: The OSS and the CIA in Hollywood Cinema, 1941-1979 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, April 2016).

Journal articles and book chapters

◾‘The Burgeoning Fissures of Dissent: Allen Dulles and the Selling of the CIA in the Aftermath of the Bay of Pigs’, History, 100:340 (April 2015), pp. 167-188.
◾‘The CIA and the Invention of Tradition’, Journal of Intelligence History, 14:2 (2015), pp. 112-128.
◾'Reconceiving Realism: Intelligence Historians and the Fact/Fiction Dichotomy', in Christopher Moran and Christopher J. Murphy (eds), Intelligence Studies in Britain and the US: Historiography Since 1945 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013).
◾'Quiet Americans: The CIA in Early Cold War Culture', Journal of American Studies, 47:1 (2013): 127-147.
◾'Filming Treachery: British Cinema and Television's Fascination with the Cambridge Five', Journal of British Cinema and Television, 10:1 (2013): 49-70. With Chris Moran.
◾'Secrecy, Censorship, and Beltway Books: The CIA's Publications Review Board', International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 24:2 (2011), pp. 239-52. With Chris Moran.

Media articles/ journalism

◾‘An Interview with Cory Doctorow’, Jacobin Magazine, 6 February 2016.
◾‘When the Internet Got Nasty: Art on the Electronic Superhighway’, The Conversation, 29 January 2015. Available in German translation here.
◾‘Homeland, Snowden and Fictional Defences of the CIA’, The Conversation, 26 October 2015.
◾‘Why Burning Man is Silicon Valley’, The Conversation, 1 September 2015.
◾‘Secrecy at the Heart of Kennedy Conspiracy Fears’, The Yorkshire Post, 18 November 2013.

Book reviews

◾ Review of ‘Imagining Surveillance: Eutopian and Dystopian Literature and Film’ by Peter Marks, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, 11:2 (2015), pp. 237-239.


Programmes taught on (2018)

Programmes taught on (2019)

Modules list

  • America in Theory

  • American Film and Society

  • Contemporary America in Context

  • American History: Birth of a Nation

  • American History: The American Century?

  • Conspiracy Theories: the Paranoid Style in American Politics, Society & Culture

  • Cold War Culture: Consensus and Dissent

Research PhDs

I welcome applications in the following areas: utopian/dystopian literature; the politics of utopia/dystopia; surveillance/privacy; the ethics of cyber security (especially issues around surveillance and privacy); intelligence history (especially US intelligence history); contemporary American culture/literature/film/politics of Hollywood cinema.

Current PhD supervisions 

Layla Hendow, The Representation of Waste in Postmodern Fiction

Professional highlights

Academic qualifications

BA, MA, PhD (Warwick)

Professional highlights

Simon has published articles on spy cinema and the public perceptions of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Journal of American Studies, the Journal of British Cinema and Television and the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.

His book, In Secrecy's Shadow: The OSS and the CIA in Hollywood Cinema (Edinburgh University Press), is a history of the OSS and CIA in Hollywood cinema. He has recently begun work as a co-investigator on an ESRC project examining the ethics and rights of cybersecurity.

Simon will be exploring how major contemporary debates regarding digital governance have been shaped by cultural texts, in particular feature films, documentaries and novels.