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Cavalier and Roundhead Spies (Hardback)

Intelligence in the Civil War & Commonwealth

English Civil War Military

By Julian Whitehead
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
ISBN: 9781844159574
Published: 16th July 2009
Last Released: 5th August 2009



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The crucial part played by intelligence and espionage techniques - by spying - in Britain during the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth has rarely been studied, yet it is a key to understanding the dangerous politics and the open warfare of those troubled times. In this fascinating and original account, Julian Whitehead traces the rapid development of intelligence techniques during this, one of the most confused and uncertain phases of British history.

A fascinating and original account

The Bookstack

This is an intriguing account of the Civil War and Commonwealth period from the military and intelligence perspective.

The British Army Review

This book is a fascinating study of a hitherto largely neglected topic by Julian Whitehead.

Guards Magazine

Excellent book. The author (who was formerly Chief of Staff Intelligence Centre and Deputy Director Security for the Ministry of Defence) brings a very interesting angle to our understanding of the momentous events from the period of civil war right the way through to the restoration. I have not come across any other book in the same league that looks at the increasingly effective systems of gathering and interpreting intelligence and what an extraordinary impact this had on the events of the period. (Also interesting Appendices e.g. Notes on cryptology)


The book contains many insights into the role that military intelligence played in the outcome of battles. The greatest commanders, Fairfax, Cromwell, Prince Rupert and Montrose all relied heavily on information provided by highly mobile scouts who often operated deep inside enemy territory.

The book also encompasses the more overtly political role of information gathering to protect the state and its chief executive officers. The author takes us from a world in which the King and Queen personally encrypted and decrypted sensitive documents to the professionally organised bureaucracy of the Protectorate's John Thurloe. The author is quite in awe of the ability of Thurloe and his deputy Sir Phillip Meadowe to process and analyse such
staggering quantities of data.

In this first edition the text contains a few errors that a good editor should have spotted and removed. No doubt these will be corrected in future editions. These small blemishes do not however prevent the book from being an good read and generally reliable. This is an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with this topic. Even aficionados and cognoscente will be intrigued by the author's unusual perspective. The appendix on cryptography is a special treat.

Sam Hearn

If you are interested in ciphers, cryptology and the tools of spying this is the book for you. On the other hand, if you are fascinated by what is behind momentous events, this book is for you.

Whatever your interests, I can thoroughly recommend this as a fascinating read for anyone, be they Royalist or Parliamentarian.

Orders of the Daye

About Julian Whitehead

Julian Whitehead read History at Oxford after which he joined the Intelligence Corps and spent a full career in government intelligence; his appointments have included Chief of Staff of the Intelligence Centre and Deputy Director of Defence Security. After leaving the Army he spent ten years as Security Adviser to Historic Royal Palaces and is now retired. His special interest is 17th century English History. Pen and Sword published his previous books Cavalier and Roundhead Spies – Intelligence in the Civil War and Commonwealth in 2009 and Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II in 2017 and Cromwell and his Women in 2018.

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