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British Naval Intelligence through the Twentieth Century (Hardback)

Maritime British History Seaforth Naval 20th Century

By Andrew Boyd
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 800
Illustrations: 35 photographs and maps
ISBN: 9781526736598
Published: 14th September 2020
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #5


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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.

‘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

About Andrew Boyd

ANDREW BOYD CMG, OBE, DPhil was educated at Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth and St John’s College, Oxford. He served as a submariner in the Royal Navy in the 1970s and subsequently the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.  He received his DPhil in naval history from the University of Buckingham in 2015 and is the author of the widely acclaimed study The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters: Linchpin of Victory 1935–1942 published by Seaforth.

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