UNITED KINGDOM

Overviews

2010s

J - Z

Jeffery, Keith. MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949. London: Bloomsbury, 2010. The Secret History of MI6, 1909-1949. New York: Penguin Press, 2010.

Hennessy, Telegraph (London), 24 Sep. 2010, finds that this "official history" is "absorbing and full of personality. It may make retired officers uneasy,... yet it gives the organisation its rightful place in the historical sun.... The priorities and operations are set in context and carefully assessed." West, IJI&C 24.4 (Winter 2011-2012), notes that despite the restrictions placed on Jeffery in writing an official history of a secret intelligence organization, he "has achieved a great deal." Even with its gaps, this "is an astonishing work of scholarship, with a gem on almost every page."

For Goulden, Washington Times, 5 Nov. 2010 and Intelligencer 18.1 (Fall-Winter 2010), the author "is strikingly objective in describing a service that despite some blips over the years, performed splendidly for the United Kingdom." Although this "is not an easy read,... Jeffery's attention to minute detail has a purpose, for it demonstrates the reality of the intelligence business." It "is perhaps the most authentic account you are ever likely to read about how intelligence really works."

Murphy, I&NS 26.5 (Oct. 2011), refers to the author's "workmanlike and highly readable official history of MI6." Jeffery "has discharged his unenviable task with great skill, and there is much of interest here, particularly for the specialist." However, "[t]he enforced cut-off point of 1949 always seemed excessively restrictive, as well as somewhat self-defeating in terms of presenting SIS as a competent and professional organization."

To Davies, I&NS 26.5 (Oct. 2011), this is "a coherent, crisply written and often engaging account.... [T]here are new insights into the organizational development of SIS and its position in the wider machinery of British central government." However, secondary works are "treated inconsistently"; for example, "Nigel West's efforts are completely absent." (Footnote omitted)

Commenting on the 2012 edition, Peake, Studies 58.1 (Mar. 2014), and Intelligencer 20.3 (Spring-Summer 2014), calls it "an astonishing work of scholarship.... About one third of the book concerns administration, and the balance covers operations.... In this revised edition [Jeffery] has added details to the adventures of Sir Paul Dukes, SIS's role in the Rudolf Hess defection, and on the agent NANNYGOAT's links to a Romanian network. Finally, he describes in detail a case omitted entirely from the first edition -- the Volkov case, which threatened to expose Philby and other Soviet penetrations of British intelligence."

Major, Patrick, and Christopher Moran, eds. Spooked: Britain, Empire and Intelligence Since 1945. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2010.

From publisher: "These essays draw together Britain's leading intelligence historians to present a fresh and original study of British secrecy since 1945. A combination of synoptic works and empirical case studies, drawing on recently declassified archival materials, the essays touch upon several historiographical concerns: the advantages and disadvantages of greater openness; the accuracy of media reporting on secret services; the representation of intelligence in popular culture; and, the use and misuse of intelligence in the so-called 'War on Terror.' A focal point of this volume is the role of intelligence in imperial contexts, especially during the period of decolonization."

Moran, Christopher R. "The Pursuit of Intelligence History: Methods, Sources, and Trajectories in the United Kingdom." Studies in Intelligence 55, no. 2 (Jun. 2011): 33-55. [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol.-55-no.-2/the-pursuit-of-intelligence-history-methods-sources-and-trajectories-in-the-united-kingdom.html]

"This article is an overview of the history of the academic study of intelligence in the United Kingdom since 1945, a time marked by three distinctive periods of historiography. Each, labelled here as Absence, Emergence, and Efflorescence, has contained unique themes and approaches to intelligence history as it has been practiced in Britain." (Footnote omitted)

Smith, Michael. SIX: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service -- Part 1: Murder and Mayhem, 1909-1939. London: Dialogue, 2010.

Peake, Studies 54.4 (Dec. 2010), and Intelligencer 18.2 (Winter-Spring 2011), finds that the author has made good use of primary sources in this history of SIS/MI6 from 1909 to 1939. Smith "add[s] new stories, fill[s] in details, us[es] true names and dates, and perhaps most interesting, describ[es] the reactions of government entities to the intelligence they received." The book "documents a greater concentration of agents operating in Germany, other European nations, and the Middle East during WW I than previously revealed."

For West, IJI&C 24.4 (Winter 2011-2012), this "is emphatically not an unexpurgated version of the official history, and nor is it wholly reliable." More unconstrained than an official historian, "Smith is generous with his criticism and is equally willing to retail some items from which an official historian might have recoiled." Davies, I&NS 26.5 (Oct. 2011), finds that "consistently long-familiar material is fused with additional sources to give substantial new detail to the picture." Smith provides "a tour de force in the exploitation of the available open sources." However, "there is a greater willingness to tolerate speculation than a scholarly reader will generally be comfortable with."

Walton, Calder. Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire. London: HarperCollins, 2013.

According to Peake, Studies 57.3 (Sep 2013), and Intelligencer 20.2 (Fall-Winter 2013), the author focuses on MI5 but "includes the contributions" of MI6, GCHQ, "military intelligence, and local Special Branch sections with arrest authority.... Most of the details Walton presents are based on recently released archival documents. When he turns his attention to Cold War counterintelligence,... he is on less firm ground." Nonetheless, this "is an impressive work and reveals the role of Britain's intelligence services in decolonization."

West, IJI&C 27.1 (Spring 2014), finds that when the author "relies on declassified documents ... he is on firm and fascinating ground, but on the occasions when he strays and offers some independent analysis, significant problems arise over the accuracy of his sources.... [H]is account" of the issue of the hostile penetration of MI5 "goes seriously awry.... [W]hen he strays from his core subject, [Walton] manifests a tendency to make extravagant statements" and "clearly has a tendency to embroider."

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