“Spies, as Christopher Catherwood’s book shows, are a Cambridge tradition”
What do the dramatist and Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan courtier Sir Francis Walsingham, and Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and John Cairncross all have in common?
The answer is that they were all at Cambridge University and all of them were spies...
This brilliant new book is the first to unite such a fascinating group of people, and to explore this extraordinary 500-year continuity provided by their place of education. This direct continuity is something of which Cambridge and its colleges are very aware, and which makes it such a unique place in the annals of espionage, treachery and intrigue.
The murder of Christopher Marlowe in a tavern brawl is still a mystery, a subject upon which many books have been written, none with conclusive results. But there is one factor upon which they all agree – that his death was directly related to his activities as a spy. Some of those involved, such as Robert Poley, were also Cambridge graduates, and with the ideological war with Spain in the 16th century having strong parallels with the similar 20th-century struggle of the Cold War (not to mention the fight against fascism in the 1930s that recruited many Cambridge students to Marxism), the level of continuity is therefore remarkable yet again.
The Cuckoos’ Nest examines and illustrates the common international themes of the times alongside the domestic political and social atmospheres prevalent and elegantly and fascinatingly weaves them into a spellbinding tale of treachery and treason.
“Spies, as Christopher Catherwood's entertaining book shows, are a Cambridge tradition. Graduates from most British universities have joined the British intelligence services. Twentieth-century Cambridge, however, provided some of the best recruits for the KGB as well. The Cuckoos’ Nest brings their extraordinary careers vividly to life.”
– Christopher Andrew, Official Historian of the Security Service (MI5)
“As Christopher Catherwood points out in The Cuckoos’ Nest, spy stories – the real ones, that is – seem to have an endless fascination for us. When these stories have a connection with an ancient university and a charming city, then the fascination is all the greater. In this extraordinarily readable book, Catherwood explores the connection between place and intrigue, between a university committed to truth and people committed to dissemblance. The result is an extraordinarily rich narrative.”
– Alexander McCall Smith
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About the Author
Christopher Catherwood is a writer and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and lives with his wife Paueltte just outside Cambridge. He is attached to Churchill College and St Edmund's College at Cambridge and attends the Intelligence History Seminar run by the Official Historian of MI5, Professor Christopher Andrew. He is an expert on 20th century history in Europe and the Middle East, and has written many books in that area, and on Winston Churchill in particular. He also teaches 20th century and English Reformation history for the Tulane and Wake Forest Universities’ INSTEP Study Abroad programme in Cambridge and taught for many years at the University of Richmond in Virginia. He is currently writing on special operations and espionage in World War II for a series on secret intelligence history, and on Randolph Churchill and Evelyn Waugh as SOE agents in the Balkans.