The Secret World: A History of Intelligence by Christopher Andrew - review by Michael S Goodman

Michael S Goodman

Spying through History

The Secret World: A History of Intelligence


Allen Lane 948pp £35 order from our bookshop

Christopher Andrew is the doyen of the academic study of intelligence in the UK. He has some serious progenitors, among them Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, but Andrew has really made the field his own. Indeed, there are few academics working on intelligence in the UK who cannot trace the origins of their work back to him.

Andrew burst onto the intelligence-history scene in 1985 with the publication of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community, an important book not only for its content, but also because of its timing. The year 1985 was the Year of the Spy – one in which a number of notable espionage cases in various countries crashed into public consciousness. It was also the year that Gorbachev succeeded to the role of general secretary of the Communist Party. In the UK at the time, the intelligence services did not officially exist. The fact that most people assumed that they did, and that they had in fact been in existence since 1909, was neither here nor there. And if they did not exist, then there could not possibly be any archival records about them. Andrew’s book dispelled this myth. Tracking down files in odd archival locations, locating unusual personal papers and scouring the dusty pages of old books, he managed to create a fascinating insight into the early years of the modern British intelligence apparatus. 

In fact this was not Andrew’s first foray into the secret world. The year before he had produced an edited volume including probably his most famous and certainly most repeated phrase. Intelligence, he and his coeditor wrote, was the ‘missing dimension’ of history: ‘academic historians have frequently tended either to

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