British Naval Intelligence through the Twentieth Century (Hardback)
Named as the Naval Review's 'Book of the Quarter'.
'British Naval Intelligence is an unprecendented and important addition to our knowledge.' (Reviewed by Professor Gwythian Prins)
This major work is the first comprehensive account of how intelligence influenced and sustained British naval power from the late nineteenth century, when the Admiralty first created a dedicated intelligence department, through to the end of the Cold War.
It brings a critical new dimension to understanding British naval history in this period – setting naval intelligence in a wide context and emphasising the many parts of the British state that contributed to naval requirements. It is also a fascinating study of how naval needs and personalities shaped the British intelligence community that exists today as well as the concepts and values that underpin it.
Andrew Boyd explains why and how intelligence was collected and assesses its real impact on both wartime operations and peacetime policy. He confirms that naval intelligence made a vital contribution to Britain’s survival and ultimate victory in the two World Wars, but he
reappraises its role, highlighting the importance of communications intelligence to an effective blockade in the First, and according Enigma-generated Ultra less dominance compared to other sources in the Second. He reveals that coverage of Germany before 1914 and of the
three Axis powers in the interwar period was more effective than previously suggested. And though Britain’s power declined rapidly after 1945, he shows how intelligence helped the Royal Navy to remain a significant global force for the rest of the twentieth century, and in submarine warfare during the second half of the Cold War, to achieve influence and impact for Britain far exceeding the resources expended.
This compelling new history will have wide appeal to all readers interested in intelligence and its impact on naval policy and operations. It will transform their understanding of how Britain ensured its national security across the twentieth century.
Book of the QuarterThe Naval Review, February 2021
This issue’s Book of the Quarter is a ground-breaking study and an important contribution to naval and intelligence history. In this book, the author provides a comprehensive account of the development of British naval intelligence and its contribution to naval and wider national power. Moreover, the author, himself a former submariner, provides a role model for today’s officers.
The Book of the Quarter series aims to highlight one book, be it a history, memoir, biography or strategy and pique members’ interest. By buying just one book of naval relevance every three months (and selection criteria does include price), members can quickly build up a private bookshelf of quality.
"Astonishingly Good Book".Amazon UK Review
This really is a fantastic book on British naval intelligence which given the author's background should come as no surprise. His understanding of intelligence and how it works ensures that this will be THE book on the subject for many years to come.
"THE BEST BOOK IN ITS FIELD".Amazon UK Review
Outstanding account and analysis of the intelligence background to British naval operations in the 20th century.
If you think you know about this subject and especially the two World Wars, think again - and enjoy and admire the original research and fresh insights that populate this authoritative, comprehensive history.
"A detailed and scholarly book with important revelations".Amazon UK Review
This book is a great read. It is lengthy but stringently researched and gives insight into the vital role Intelligence played in many conflicts.
"A magisterial achievement".Amazon UK Review
A definitive account by an author who brings naval experience to a welcome understanding of the British application of intelligence to strategic positions. Original excavation of official records is combined with a fine judgement of personalities and a developed, most accessible, narrative style. This great book is a must-read for anyone seeking the secret story of Britain's fortunes, through war and peace, in relation to foes and friends alike.
"The best book on this subject".Amazon UK Review
A really excellent and thorough analysis. It actually goes far beyond straight intelligence, discussing also nuclear targeting, the UK development of its own Chevaline warheads and decoys, etc. More readable than other books discussing 20th century intelligence such as Hinsley which was overburdened by discussions of structures and committees.
One will learn a lot by reading this. My goodness, a lot of work must have gone into this masterpiece from someone with inside knowledge of how defence works from his time in the Navy.
This is a rich and beautifully nuanced book, packed full of lessons for any RN officer who wishes truly to come to grips with the evolution of the Service: a history prerequisite to a contemporary understanding of the full reach of naval power. As Andrew Lambert rightly observes in his Foreword, it is in many ways definitive. It is worth every penny of its £35.The Naval Review
Read the full review here
British Naval Intelligence is an unprecedented and important addition to our knowledge. The book kept this reviewer on the edge of his seat from start to finish, it cements Dr Boyd’s reputation as one of our leading naval and intelligence historians of this generation in lineal succession to the earlier generation of historians such as Marder and Roskill. Boyd offers us nothing less than a comprehensive rebalancing and a new way of looking not only at naval intelligence but at the entire modern history of British intelligence and hence of the deployment of British power.Professor Gwythian Prins - Naval Review
British Naval Intelligence Through the Twentieth Century is a truly great work in every way and is necessary and fundamental reading for everyone with an interest in modern naval history.Navy News
'To the serious student of modern naval history, this book must be consulted and referenced.'Paul Beaver - Special Forces Club magazine
'To be frank, I couldn't put the book down as each page contained a historical gem.'
There is so much in this book that a mere summary does not give space for comment on more than a tiny fraction of its content. I can say without hesitation, however, that it is a masterly history of British naval intelligence that deserves to be placed in the essential category. This book brings a new dimension to the historiography of naval operations in the twentieth century and I recommend it unreservedly.Australian Naval Institute
Having served in the Royal Navy during the period this book covers I found Andrew Boyd’s monumental new history a compelling read. Not far short of 800 pages, the text is supplemented by extensive notes and a useful bibliography.Julian Stockwin
Boyd provides the first comprehensive account of how intelligence influenced and sustained British naval power from the late nineteenth century, when the Admiralty first created a dedicated intelligence department, through to the end of the Cold War. It brings a critical new dimension to understanding British naval history in this period setting naval intelligence in a wide context and emphasising the many parts of the British state that contributed to naval requirements. It is also a fascinating study of how naval needs and personalities shaped the British intelligence community that exists today as well as the concepts and values that underpin it.
Boyd’s work will appeal to historians of the twentieth century and also to those readers interested in intelligence and its impact on naval policy and operations.
Read the full review here
‘An excellent book that puts the history of British naval intelligence into proper perspective. Andrew Boyd gives us a new understanding of what British naval intelligence was and how it worked. More than that, this book will spur you to think about the ways in which the broader British intelligence community developed over time and how we have to write its history. A really valuable addition to the field.’Dan Todman, Professor of Modern History, Queen Mary College University of London
‘In this monumental study Andrew Boyd more than confirms his position as one of the most important naval historians of the current era. His extraordinarily comprehensive and original account of intelligence and its key impact on strategy and operations must now be a common starting point for any serious work on modern British naval history.’Eric Grove, former Professor of Naval History at Salford and Liverpool Hope Universities
‘This superb study gives the first truly comprehensive picture of British naval intelligence in the 20th century. Exhaustively researched, elegantly written and persuasively argued, it provides a nuanced portrait of intelligence gathering as a “cumulative process of knowledge and understanding”, and explains how that affected British naval policy, strategy and high-level operations. Dr Boyd is a historian of rare talent and his book will be required reading for anyone interested in naval history or Britain at war in the 20th century.’Saul David, author of Crucible of Hell: Okinawa, The Last Great Battle of the Second World War
‘British naval intelligence has needed and deserved a book of this depth and calibre for a long time. Andrew Boyd combines a cool detachment, an insider’s feel and a talent for archival work with an eye for context, moment and significance.’Professor Peter Hennessy, co-author of The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service Since 1945
'This book is at once a comprehensive and sophisticated re-examination of a fascinating subject, an opportunity to emphasise the place of intelligence in the wider work of navies, in peace and war, and to stress the critical role of naval power in British policy.’Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History, Kings College London