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A Hundred Years of Spying (Kindle)

Espionage & the SOE P&S History

By Phil Carradice
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 26.6 MB (.mobi)
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526781437
eBook Released: 29th June 2021


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Early espionage organisations like Walsingham’s Elizabethan spy network were private enterprises, tasked with keeping the Tudor Queen and her government safe. Formal use of spies and counter spies only really began in the years after 1909, when the official British secret service was founded. Britain became the first major proponent of secret information gathering and other nations quickly followed.

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw a sudden and dramatic increase in the use of spies as the military quickly began to realise the value of covert intelligence. Spying ‘came of age’ during the war on the Western Front and that value only increased in the run up to the Second World War, when the threat of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany began to make themselves felt.

The Cold War years, with the use of moles, defectors and double agents on both sides of the Iron Curtain saw the art of spying assume record proportions. The passing on of atom secrets, the truth about Russian missiles on Cuba, it was the age of the double agent, the activities of whom managed to keep away the looming threat of nuclear war.

A Hundred Years of Spying takes the reader through the murky world of espionage as it develops over the course of the twentieth century, where the lines of truth and reality blur, and where many real-life spies have always been accompanied, maybe even proceeded, by a plethora of spy literature.

This book will look at the use of and development of spying as an accepted military practice. It will focus on individuals from Belgians like Gabrielle Petite to the infamous Mata Hari, from people like Reilly Ace of Spies to the British traitors such as Philby, Burgess and McClean. The activities of American atom spies like the Rosenbergs will also be covered as will Russian double agent Oleg Penkovsky and many others.

In A Hundred Years of Spying Phil Carradice gives a nice overview of intelligence work during, primarily, the 20th century. This is a good introduction and suggests many opportunities for a reader to explore certain people or aspects more fully.

As he makes clear, the act of spying did not originate in the early 20th century, but that is when it became a standard arm of a nation's defense. Prior to that spies were usually employed for specific purposes rather than an organization of spies maintaining a flow of information as a matter of course.

Carridice manages to tell the story as a coherent narrative while also highlighting certain spies and incidents. In this way the reader sees both the bigger picture of how the intelligence community developed over the years as well as the personal aspects of some of the people who played key roles.

I would recommend this for anyone wanting a good introduction and overview of modern intelligence gathering. While some with more background may not learn a lot new I think even they will appreciate the way in which this book brings the separate strands together.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

About Phil Carradice

Phil Carradice is a well-known writer and historian with over 60 books to his credit. A poet, story teller and broadcaster, his most recent books are Battle of Tsushima and Britain's Last Invasion (for Pen and Sword), The Call Up (Fonthill) and the novel Stargazers for Accent Press. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio and TV, presents the BBC Wales History programme “The Past Master” and is widely regarded as one of the finest creative writing tutors in Wales.

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