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The Secret World The History Of Espionage Is Far Older Than Any Of Today S Intelligence Agencies, Yet The Long History Of Intelligence Operations Has Been Largely Forgotten The First Mention Of Espionage In World Literature Is In The Book Of Exodus God Sent Out Spies Into The Land Of Canaan From There, Christopher Andrew Traces The Shift In The Ancient World From Divination To What We Would Recognize As Attempts To Gather Real Intelligence In The Conduct Of Military Operations, And Considers How Far Ahead Of The West At That Time China And India Were He Charts The Development Of Intelligence And Security Operations And Capacity Through, Amongst Others, Renaissance Venice, Elizabethan England, Revolutionary America, Napoleonic France, Right Up To Sophisticated Modern Activities Of Which He Is The World S Best Informed Interpreter What Difference Have Security And Intelligence Operations Made To Course Of History Why Have They So Often Forgotten By Later Practitioners This Fascinating Book Provides The Answers

  • Paperback
  • 600 pages
  • The Secret World
  • Christopher M. Andrew
  • 25 January 2019
  • 9780140285321

About the Author: Christopher M. Andrew

Christopher Maurice Andrew is an historian at the University of Cambridge with a special interest in international relations and in particular the history of intelligence services.

10 thoughts on “The Secret World

  1. says:

    This book is a history of intelligence work covering roughly 3000 years of human history It is a scholarly work 16% is notes, references lightened with quick moving, free flowing prose There is plenty of scope for further study, encouraged by the excellent bibliography, and there are lots of interesting facts, and some entertaining quotes, like this one the most distrustful persons are the biggest dupes I discovered that the history of intelligence is also a history of leakers of information important to governments and organizations.The introduction and conclusion were especially fascinating because they relate many current events to the premise of the book, and drive home the premise histories have been written without the inclusion of the key element of espionage and intelligence, creating mistaken interpretations of historical events, and that the lack of historical knowledge has caused mistaken interpretations of intelligence.The author makes a clear case for the importance of intelligence, both secret and that available from open sources, for positive actors on the world stage to avoid conflicts and wars, to win wars, to build alliances, to support allies, to have clarity when making momentous decisions, to undermine aggressors out to destabilize regions or countries.A group s use of intelligence for nefarious purposes is also presented in the book for the destruction of rivals, for financial gain for a clique, for the acquisition of power and influence ultimately for the acquisition of financial gain, and to enhance the egos and sense of security of deluded actors on the world stage.The chapters are historical divisions, which are always a false form of organization in histories since real life has no smooth beginnings nor endings, but instead tentacles that thread in and out of events, spread out over time That means there is much overlap between the chapters.I m a fan of history books, but they can be mind numbingly monotonous, just a long series of wars, conflicts, treaties, royals, ministers, pretenders, historical figures, etc They are very difficult to write, and it is very challenging to keep the reader s interest I ve read great histories and not so great historical accounts This book falls mid range, so my advice is take the reading slowly so as not to become overwhelmed.Since the book clocks in at 960 pages, it will take a while to get though it It is best if the reader has a sound founding in world history If not, you can read up along the way, but expect to be overwhelmed I started with the beginning and conclusion, then hit then the eras of most interest to me, after which I moved on to the other eras Some chapters I read diligently than others, to be honest.The author points out along the way the most common reasons for intelligence community failures, which is fascinating in itself not seeing things in historical context, prejudice influencing interpretations, underestimating opponents due to arrogance, rivalry within the intel community hurting the sharing of knowledge, relying on the various crackpots who seem to be attracted to espionage, tailoring analyses to the powers that be s expectations, overestimating the organization of enemies, not considering enough the open versus authoritarian nature of an opponent s system and how it can affect intelligence, letting myth and religion influence interpretations While reading, I created a mental picture of the author as an elderly man, and I wasn t wrong I found the use of the archaic word flamboyant for homosexual men odd in today s open environment Also odd was the near universal avoidance of the role that people s sexuality can play in intelligence gathering and interpretation, and the effect of being from a sexual minority, especially a persecuted minority, has on someone becoming a spy or a leaker or an assassin, despite there being historical and current instances There was also scant mention of sexual blackmail and sexual manipulation in the spying game, which I found hard to fathom considering both human nature and sexual bigotries that have existed through time.One section in the last chapter especially caught my eye It is about autocrats and begins with a description of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein Autocrats are described as being by nature self delusional, uneducated and ignorant, irrational, self destructive, surrounded by sycophants, and being people who put out false narratives that they come to believe, and on which they make major decisions to disastrous effect The example of Saddam Hussein was offered to show that when dealing with autocrats, analysts can be way off, because the analyst can rarely get into the mind of a self deluded person What do they really believe No one really knows That is when you are in the danger zone of an unpredictable actor I received a review copy of this book this is my honest review.

  2. says:

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  3. says:

    I came to this book, less from an deep interest in codebreaking or espionage, but because it falls into my favourite genre Histories of the World From some Interesting Perspective And of course, intelligence as a human endeavour is very interesting.This is a long book On the spectrum from shallow pop histories to dense dry names n dates, this lies closer to the latter than my usual fare But don t let that put you off this is a thoroughly entertaining list of names and dates And note that this book seems designed to allow you to consume its chapters independently, if there are some eras that interest you Sometimes I did get the feeling that it was moving too fast despite its depth there is of course a lot of history here to cover As such the book is interested in covering the territory in detail rather than trying to reveal grand themes and argue theses with the notable exception of the Introduction and Conclusion I ll try to summarize some of those themes here, and mention just a few of the many colourful episodes in the history of spycraft and international trickery described therein.One of the main aims of the book is to show that a lack of historical perspective on intelligence can be a key cause of its dysfunction in any particular era, including our own And as such the book is intended to help rectify that An recurring thread is Andrew s identification of a variety cultural factors within governments that can lead to a destructive neglect or misuse of intelligence a lack of historical perspective being just one of them In ancient Greece and Rome, the religious significance given to omens and portents displaced intelligence as an input to military planning or statecraft, and lead to many of ancient history s greatest strategic facepalms This is in contrast to ancient China s Sun Tzu of Art of War fame , and India s Arthashastra Religion plays a significant role in the decision making of most leaders prior to the modern age, so much so that the book in these early sections mixes anecdotes related to intelligence from both history and myth, including the Old Testament, Homeric poems, and the Hadiths I found this a little off putting, but this habit disappears as the story nears the renaissance.Andrews likes to draw parallels between places distant in time and geography He notes several similarities between medieval Catholic inquisitions and Stalinist ideological purges and show trials centuries later Another refrain that appears many times is the notion of telling truth to power The ease with which intelligence officials are able to pass on news that contradicts the leadership s prevailing views is correlated with how effective intelligence can be Here Stalin s USSR is another prime example, where despite a massive well funded intelligence apparatus, blunders were routinely made, priorities failed to match reality, and information routinely misinterpreted due to unchecked conspiracy theories On the other hand, USSR also serves as an example of the maxim that authoritarian regimes in contrast to democracies are very difficult to gather intelligence on from the outside due to paranoia and a lack of open, publicly responsible institutions.The book really starts to get meaty with the figure of Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I s de facto spymaster His complex network of agents and letter interception team, including a staff cryptographer, set the rhythm for much of the rest of the book elaborate tales of intercepted correspondence, battling cryptographers, spies in embassies, and colourful characters making consequential mistakes For the next half millennium, the books spends most of its time hopping around European centers of power particularly the UK, Russia and France And of course it peeks across the Atlantic from time to time, including an interesting portrait of George Washington an adept user of intelligence But Russia in particular is the subject of regular and detailed coverage, and has a fascinating history of espionage and diplomatic intrigue.Also on the list of cultural tendencies and can derail your intelligence operations is conspiratorial thinking When this afflicts leaders, evidence which contradicts their theories is ignored, and evidence which supports it is exaggerated, or simply invented Robespierre in revolutionary France was one extreme example, and of course, that exemplar of all things, Stalin Bureaucratic infighting is another problem, as demonstrated by the US s bizarre alternating day system of signals intelligence reporting between the Army and the Navy in the lead up to Pearl Harbour Something that struck me from reading this book is how much the personalities of key people could play a huge role in the course of the events, in particular the people generating, interpreting or receiving intelligence.There are a lot of just plain entertaining stories of daring and deceit in this book, including agents working on behalf of the British Raj in India, who would dress up as monks and pilgrims and travel deep into remote areas, like the Himalayas, with surveying equipment disguised as religious items, and mapping the regions as the result risking death if they were caught Or Mitrokhin, the KGB archivist who defected to the UK with a massive library of notes the fodder for two of Andrew s earlier books Or the Double Cross System Britain maintained in WW2 apparently all of what Germany thought were her agents in England had been converted to feed disinformation On the flip side, the Cambridge Five, a group of Soviet agents working in absurdly high levels in UK intelligence during the same war, were passing huge amounts of intelligence to the Russians all while Britain was itself doing some the most impressive intelligence work in history.I was sometimes a little frustrated that some of the technical detail was left out of the book, such as cryptographic techniques and the nitty gritty of spycraft I didn t quite understand how it was that states were routinely in the position of being able to intercept nearly all correspondence of interest to them, and yet at the same time, there were spies operating for decades sending information long distances that were never caught The Cambridge Five being one such example It was never explained how exactly they physically managed to evade detection.There are sections of the book that start to feel a little one damn ambassador after another, or seem to be an amusing collection of tales from history that vaguely relate to intelligence, or assassination, or the wacky exploits of the ruling class But these stretches were punctuated with enough islands of insight and fascination to keep me going through to the end And of course, due to bias toward the contemporary, things always seems to get and intriguing as history progresses toward the present.Andrew wraps it up with a satisfying survey of intelligence concerns of today Islamic terror, China, Saddam s imaginary WMDs, Wikileaks and Snowden He keeps his political cards politely close to his chest.This book is a laudable achievement and rich tour through history through one of the most intriguing lenses, and I recommend it to any history buff especially those politically or militarily inclined But also if you re just fascinated by the sorts of daring shenanigans and outlier personalities the human race is capable of creating.I listened to the audiobook version and high recommend Laurence Kennedy s excellent narration, bringing life to often amusing quotations, and an appropriately subtle wink to the copious dry British humour scattered throughout the text.

  4. says:

    This is an ambitious and engrossing book, covering a large swathe of intelligence in human history It is wonderful for really digging into the role intelligence has played as part of larger contexts of human warfare and diplomacy.It is not perfect, however Barring a quick hop to Sun Tzu and to India in one of its opening chapters, and a review of Communist China in the conclusion, this book is predominantly focused on the Western World largely France, US, Russia, UK and Germany It misses opportunities to look at other areas of the world, Africa barely figures nor does South East Asia or South America beyond the involvement of the big five Perhaps simply acknowledgments at the difficulty of finding sources in these regions would be enough Equally, it misses out on some prime opportunities in the areas it covers For instance, the fifth column was a term coined in the Spanish Civil War, yet the war itself earns only a few lines I think the era was about 10 hours ago on my audiobook Andrew is also a fan of the superlative there are lots of only s, biggest s greatest s This dependence on comparison becomes wearying at times, particularly in a subject area where much primary source material would either have been burned on reading, or is still held in some classified bunker somewhere It is difficult to justify these kinds of claims.

  5. says:

    For those of you who may not know, Professor Andrew is one of if not the leading authorities in intelligence history, and I ve been reading his work since I was a baby undergrad who didn t know the difference between deception and denial The fact that I have the opportunity to read this book published September 2018, you can preorder here just made my week.As you can tell, this is going to be a sterling review And, honestly it would have to have been a truly atrocious book for me to have been unhappy while reading it Does that make my review biased ln one sense, probably On the other hand, having read Professor Andrew s work in the past and having studied intelligence for near on a decade myself, I am perhaps uniquely placed to critique such books Take it how you will.This book was an awesome read And I mean, awesome lntelligence history, despite what some may think or believe, is often stranger than fiction Professor Andrew has condensed an amazing amount of information into this text, and through an approachable writing style and impeccable use of anecdotal asides has written quite the enjoyable volume No Saharan sand here You get to read about turncoats, double agents, triple agents, monarchs throwing their shoes at their spymasters That one really made me chortle how undignified, for both parties.Look, I have a particular interest in intelligence and that drives a lot of my leisure reading as well as my research, but I truly think that this history has something all readers will enjoy It is a little large 900 pages , but the way the book is formatted means you can dip into a certain period in intelligence history without having to commit to the whole thing at once, which l quite liked Or, you can join Nerds R Us and read it cover to cover, for your enjoyment and thorough edification.I loved it Five star read, people.Full review at

  6. says:

    This was a very, very detailed account of the history of intelligence that lacked a coherent narrative and had a lot of snippets of facts vaguely strung together by chronological order.Overall, I would say that unless one has a very good understanding of military history spanning from practically the beginning of man to about a decade ago, then you re going to end up quite lost, or at least Googling lots of things for clarification, which can be fun if you know that s what you re in for Places, names, events randomly pop up and a note about their spying or ability to gather intelligence is briefly mentioned before quickly moving onto the next place, person or random moment in time There were many times that I had to go back to see if I had skipped some transition in the text to see if the book had moved on to a different time period as random facts from different periods were introduced in the middle of a story of one battle The last third of the book had a coherent narrative and a greater depth of analysis than the rest of it I would give that part 4 stars I listened to this on Audible, and the reading on my version by Laurence Kennedy this was UK Audible, sometimes US Audible has a different reader was especially flat and horrible, so I wouldn t recommend him The book is interesting and overall a decent read, though I would avoid listening to the Laurence Kennedy version.

  7. says:

    Summary Statement This work is a huge contribution to the history of intelligence But this book is not to be read by the faint hearted It is clearly a labor of love to write, and for me it was a labor of love to read But I am glad I did For intellectual depth and detail this is a 5 star book For the issues sited below e.g Euro American centric, not enough summary compared with details , I will give it an overall rating of 4.5 Review Twenty first century intelligence suffers from long term historical amnesia Early in the Cold War, the historical Sherman Kent, founding father of US intelligence analysis, complained that intelligence was the only profession without a serious literature From my point of view, this is a matter of greatest importance As long as this discipline lacks a literature, its methods, its vocabulary, its body of doctrine, and even its fundamental theory run the risk of never reaching full maturity Kent, The Need for Intelligence Literature page 1 of The Secret World A History of Intelligence In this well researched and detailed book the author sets out to redress this need for a history of intelligence , namely the craft, art, approach to learn secrets or disseminate misleading information for strategic or tactical advantage Based on the perspective provided in this book, you gain a different understanding on many historical events, and how over the many centuries, lessons had to be learned and relearned many times Recall those who do not know and understand history are doomed to repeat it This book has much to commend it Fortunately, given the size of the book 760 of text , the author writes well The book has many, many stories that give new perspectives on history The book is extremely well referenced, both in a 58 page bibliography, 55 pages of end notes, and numerous foot notes bottom of the page that often are very enlightening and add detail I also want to commend the Introduction to any reader of this book It provides the high level ideas in its 11 pages that are then amplified during the next 749 pages The author moves through time, starting with the bible, and moving to the present in a total of 30 chapters As the book came into modern time those I had some additional knowledge of I found the reading much easier The final chapter 30 and the conclusion, the authors talks about the current world, facing religious radicals Here the author brings a couple of points repeatedly one is the need for a long term perspective looking at trends over multiple years or decades this is often challenging for bureaucracies one is the need to think out of the box the failure to do so led to the completely unexpected attack at Pearl Harbor as well as the unexpected attack on 9 11 There is a great deal I learned from this book, with its many colorful characters and interesting stories Let me give two examples from my US perspective For example, just in the early history of the United States during the revolutionary war Chapter 15 we learn that many of Washington s successes came as a result of having spies throughout the then colonies which informed his decisions and a near fatal loss when he did not have the intelligence they provided He was also very good a disinformation, which saved his army during the winter at Valley Forge He sent inflated reports to the British about the size of his army I also did not know that in Paris one of the key secretaries for Benjamin Franklin was a British spy And for an interesting story, James Feni Cooper became famous as an author because of his novel The Spy , inspired by Washington s spies In addition, the author mentions Washington s foresight in establishing a secret service in his terms as President He also understands that how he set it up would have precedent for future generations And the author claims that Washington was perhaps the only war president who really appreciated the value of intelligence, and worked on it himself, during the war at least Finally, for this section, we learn that the beloved Benjamin Franklin was a master at disinformation and psychological warfare, for example having invented the story in 1782, near the end of the revolution that the British governor of Canada was paying his Indian allies for American scalps, many of them from women and children Whig politicians in Britain used the story to attack the conduct of the war.As a second example again focused on United States history , the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbor combined a President who did not demand a united approach between Navy and Army even days Navy decoded, odd days Army decoded, and Sundays did not provide a way to provide intelligence to the White House to provide him SIGNET code intelligence , for a lack of resources and focus on Japan, and in short a transgression that ignored Sun Tzu warning of never underestimate your opponent and in this case underestimate based on racial bias Roosevelt s lack of interest in SIGNET was different from Churchill s great interest he often called up Benchley Park to learn what was going on But the author attributed both Roosevelt s and Churchill s lack of imagination to not even considering an attack on Pearl Harbor Note that the 9 11 commission also cited the lack of sharing information across agencies as a major contributing cause of these attacks Thus, in short there is much interesting material in each of the chapters, and a new look at the history we thought we knew It is also clear that for those leaders who take an interest in intelligence Churchill, Washington , it served them well But for those leaders who did not understand it, or paid no attention to it, their countries suffered On the other hand, in reading this book one can become overwhelmed by all the characters who fill the pages And sometimes it is a challenge to see the forest for all of the trees so, my advice is to read and re read the Introduction Also, the author seems to have left out than half of the world in his history, such as China although some of this may be the Chinese refusal to shine any daylight into their agencies this is discussed in the final chapter Thus, the book is very Euro US centric, bringing in other countries either in wars or as colonies Finally, I think the book could emphasize a bit some of the key themes for a discipline, in each of the chapters.

  8. says:

    By far the most interesting book I have read this year I borrowed it from the library and I only had 2 weeks to read such a massive text so I finished it in audiobook form This book is better read than heard, I found myself trailing off in the audiobook the narrator was a little monotone It is such a great encyclopedia of espionage but it will begin to get a bit repetitive I was so surprised to learn about biblical spies a time of history that I never reference when it comes to the topic of espionage.

  9. says:

    Very good and yet This is excellent book about the history of intelligence It is a pleasure to read Nevertheless, there are some greeting issues the author is very fond of phrases like this is the first or only time such and such has happened When this is repeated time and again in every chapter, it becomes a little boring.Second, the author relies heavily on European history and that of the United States Surely, intelligence has a history outside Europe, for instance Japan and China Moreover, even post World War Two, the experience of countries other than the United States, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union would have been of interest Hence, only four stars instead five.

  10. says:

    I can sum up this book with two quotes To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history Marcus Tullius Cicero It is not difficult to think of current world leaders with little of no discernible historical interests Christopher M Andrew, The Secret World A History of Intelligence, Yale University Press, 2018, p 760Even though this book is as thick as a bible, unlike that so called collection of holy writ, I could not put the book down Certainly it has changed my opinion of espionage and surveillance I know I know 1984, Big Brother and all that However the West has not fallen into the paranoia of its own populace which characterized the old Soviet Union and the post World War II Eastern Bloc nations Ancient empires and modern despotic regimes have fallen where leaders scoffed at or misused or misunderstood intelligence gathering And after reading this tome, which primarily followed the history of SIGINT, or signals intelligence, plus the books about HUMINT, human intelligence, I recently read, I must conclude espionage is neither intrinsically evil nor good It just is Of course domestic surveillance in the hands of a paranoid, single party dictatorship has caused untold human suffering If anything intelligence in the hands of government leaders willing pay heed and digest information gathered through SIGINT, primarily, IMINT, image intelligence, and to a lesser extent HUMINT can avert war The classic example is the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 16 to October 28, 1962 Of course both John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were among the most politically savvy of the post WWII leaders Of course it helped that Kennedy had good intelligence on Soviet activities in Cuba And the world is lucky that Vasily Arkhipov was commander of the Foxtrot class submarine flotilla on October 27 I hope our much maligned intelligence services save this nation from another pointless and disastrous war which looms over us now.

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