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Leifer studied Political Economy at the University of Reading and subsequently took his doctorate at the London School of Economics in 1959 with a dissertation on "Zionism and Palestine in British Opinion and Policy, 1945-1949".
- Michael Leifer: Selected Works on Southeast Asia, compiled and edited by Chin Kin Wah and Leo Suryadinata, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005
- Dictionary of the modern politics of South-East Asia, - 3. ed. - London : Routledge, 2001
- Asian nationalism, London : Routledge, 2000
- Singapore's foreign policy : coping with vulnerability, London : Routledge, 2000
- The ASEAN Regional Forum : a model for cooperative security in the Middle East, Canberra : Dept. of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS), Australian National University (ANU), 1998
- The Asean regional forum : extending ASEAN's model of regional security, London : Oxford Univ. Press, 1996
- Dictionary of the modern politics of South-East Asia, London : Routledge, 1995
- Vietnam and Doi Moi : domestic and international dimensions of reform, London, 1991
- Cambodian conflict : the final phase?, London : Centre for Security and Conflict Studies, 1989
- ASEAN and the security of South-East Asia, London : Routledge, 1989
- The balance of power in East Asia, Basingstoke, Hampshire : Macmillan, 1986
- Indonesia's foreign policy, London : The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1983
- Conflict and regional order in South-east Asia, London : International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1980
- Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia, Alphen aan den Rijn : Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1978
- Dilemmas of statehood in Southeast Asia, Vancouver : Univ. of British Columbia Press and Singapore : Asia Pacific Press, 1972
- Constraints and adjustments in British foreign policy, London : Allen & Unwin, 1972
- Nationalism revolution and evolution in South-East Asia, Zug : Inter Doc., 1970
- The Philippine claim to Sabah, Zug : Inter Documentation Company, 1968
- Cambodia : the search for security, London : Pall Mall P, 1967
- See Seng Tan (December 2012). "Spectres of Leifer: Insights on Regional Order and Security for Southeast Asia Today". Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs. 34 (3): 309–337. doi:10.1353/csa.2012.0023.
- Joseph Chinyong Liow; Ralf Emmers, eds. (2006). Order and Security in Southeast Asia: Essays in Memory of Michael Leifer. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-36366-7.
- Roberts, Adam (2001-04-09). "Obituary Professor Michael Leifer". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
- Smith, Trevor (2001-04-03). "Michael Leifer: Political scientist with unrivalled knowledge of south-east Asia". The Guardian (obituary). London. Retrieved 2008-09-06.