A Hundred Years of Spying (ePub)
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.
This is a fascinating in-depth look at espionage. It traces the roots of spying, or the collecting of information to give “your side” an advantage, back to ancient history. Information has always been golden particularly when two sides are at odds. But it was early in the 20th Century that it became a science of sorts. During the build up to and the progress of WW I, it was an art form practiced by both sides. Spies could be providing detailed information or undermining the war effort or betraying one side or the other. It was a dangerous activity often with deadly results if caught and as the various events of the century changed the cast of villains, things got more and more sophisticated as the years ticked by.NetGalley, Susan Johnston
The book gives details a lot of the framework within which the spies operated and it also tells some interesting stories about some of the more important purveyors of spying over those 100 hundred years. It was both accessible and enlightening.
The majority of this book is about spying as part on the UK Governments intelligence and counter-intelligence bureaus. There is a short preface of the history of spying related to Europe and England prior to the twentieth century but mostly it deals with the English and the agencies of other countries that spied on the UK. The best foreign coverage is that of Russia/USSR and the Cambridge Five.NetGalley, Zeb Kantrowitz
The first agency (MI5) was chartered in 1909 and was to be a supplement to the Office of Naval Intelligence (who only dealt with other navies). Like a lot of the early agencies of European countries the people who were put in charge were there because of who they were and who they knew. If they had even a modicum of an idea of how to spy or look for other spies, it was just serendipity. As we move past the Great War, spying begins to look more like the spy novels of the time but the real agents are never as smart as the fictional ones.
As a Welshman, Carradice has no problem pointing out all of the foibles of the British Aristocrats who were in charge of Intelligence. You became a spy because your country needed you and you could learn what you needed to know, on the job. Just reading the sections on the Cambridge Five gives you an idea of what politicians thought of the "spy game" (no something any real gentleman would do).
Being a short book, 224 pages, makes it an enjoyable quick read.
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.NetGalley, Jack Messer
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.