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MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 Hardcover – 1 Sep 2010
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'Judicious and fluently written history...a fascinating insight into a hidden world, an impressive work of scholarship with terrific photos' --Andrew Lownie, Sunday Telegraph, 26/09/10
`A very fine book...full of episode and personality' --Peter Hennessy, Daily Telegraph, 25/09/10
'A magisterial account of the two wars in particular, viewed via the prism of secret intelligence. Winningly, it also entertains.' --Mark Sellek, Independent on Sunday, 26/09/10
`Jeffery's monograph is extremely valuable... a realistic picture of a splendid British institution' --Oleg Gordievsky, The Times, 25/09/10
`Fascinating...the book is full of examples of the ingenuity and courage shown by all ranks.'
--Douglas Hurd, Guardian, 02/10/10
written with full and unrestricted access to the closed archives of the
Service for the period 1909-1949.
Top customer reviews
We get here an in-depth look at the heads of the Service, and its role in peace and war: from Boche to Bolsheviks is the title of one chapter, and it might as well have titled the whole book, really, if Jeffrey was trying to write a catchy story rather than an authorised history. There are lots of interesting vignettes here, but little on what you might be looking for - the Cambridge 5, the man who never was, etc: often because this was done by organisations other than MI6. The SOE for example were a wartime sabotage force, not an intelligence service.
At times it's a little dry, but there are interesting thoughts on the need for political independence of a secret service which in turn relies on its being nonpartisan. None of this is dross, or mere noise, but if you are looking for a chronicle of wartime adventure or secret operations and assassinations revealed...alas, this is not the book for you. The cover does say, reads like the script of a Bond film, but really its mostly just the bits where Bond meets with M (itself a play on C) that this book represents.
This is a great work, but be aware what it is not before you buy it.
It is like a heavy well meaning claret from an established house - lots of body and self-assuredness but heavy tannins instead of fruitiness - but the new owner has stuck on a funky label which misleads you. So ignore the blurb on the cover except for the word "official" as that will tell you all you need to know.
What are the major conclusions we can draw from the subject matter? A spirit of make do and mend, significant difficulty in penetrating foreign societies, interesting insistence on distance from the government departments they fed and a quirky approach to recruitment.
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