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on 23 August 2017
A well written book that gives you an insight into what Mi5 has done to keep the people of the UK safe for the first century of its existence and some of the troubles that it has faced
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on 26 April 2017
Well written, authoritative, and clearly well informed. A must for all followers of domestic intelligence matters, amateur or professional alike.
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on 28 September 2017
book cover damaged
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on 11 November 2016
As mentioned here already, the book is authorized by the system to be published hence, it has been cleaned of what common people would find revolting in what is being done there. With a bit of admission of guilt or mistakes on several subjects, old enough to be remembered by only a few people, it paints itself as a thorough and honest analysis.

Nevertheless it is still a good book as it provide a good backbone to the reader to expand its personal research in some of the occulted subjects that are chosen not to be mentioned. It would have been interested to have more details about MI5's job during the 30's and relations of the Royal Family with people who are not to be spoken about anymore since 1945. Nothing is mentioned about Direct Action about PIRA.

The part about the Cambridge Five is really interesting for a new starter.
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on 17 June 2013
Purchased from my son's Christmas list of wants. He said it has taken him a long time to read it.
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on 4 December 2011
We are all fascinated by secrets. This book is the officially approved version of the history of MI5 between its foundation in 1909 and 2009. It is very long, but since it takes in the history of both World Wars, the Cold War and numerous other conflicts as well as intervals of relative peace, that is forgivable. It is a fascinating read.

Some years ago Christopher Andrews was involved in the making of a series of radio programmes entitled 'What if?'. He is used to asking so-called 'counterfactual' questions; but here he sticks to the facts. I suppose the main question is whether his selection of them is too narrow, despite the length of the book, given the legal constraints which must still apply in some areas. It is difficult to know, though I notice that some of my fellow reviewers have rushed to judgement.

Looking at the first section of the book, regarding the period 1909-1918, I think we do hear a bit too much about the internal politics, which an outsider will not find of much interest; but on the other hand we hear a great deal that must be new. We are told about the breaking of the German spy network in Britain in 1914; and about the success of British Intelligence in relation to Indian nationalism, both in Britain and in the United States; but also about the relative failure in relation to Sinn Fein, before the Easter Rising of 1916.

There is nothing here about the Kaiser's remark that the BEF was a 'contemptible little army'; or the Angels of Mons; or Russian troops marching through Britain with snow on their boots; or the crucified soldier; or the rape of Belgium; or the German Corpse Factory. There were widespread rumours about all these things; and it has been alleged, at various times and places, that they were spread or even invented by the British. I am not sure if Christopher Andrew fails to include them because there was never any truth in them, or because there is no truth in the idea that they were propaganda, or because his history is a history of MI5 rather than of MI6; or because they may have been the work of the British Secret Service but we are still not allowed to know the full story; but perhaps it doesn't really matter. The truth is stranger than fiction in any event.

Stephen Cooper
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on 11 November 2009
Christopher Andrew is a respected UK historian who has witten widely about the UK intelligence services. He is the only historian whom the Spooks would let near their offical archives - and, even, then, he was not granted total access.

This is fine, so far as it goes. But as reviews of the book in "Private Eye" magazine, and in letters to the London "Times" newspaper have pointed out, there is a price to be paid for such access: you cannot write a fully independent account of the Security Service whilst at the same time be chummy with those same services. Andrew's closeness to the Spooks, whilst allowing him access to a wealth of sensitive material, has at the same time compromised his independence and objectivity. The reviews of the books have pointed out massive gaps in the MI5 story which no fully independent researcher would have allowed to have gone unchallenged and unacknowledged.

That said, the book is the best and fullest account of the Security Service to date. But, given the above caveat, it should be read with caution.
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on 9 November 2016
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on 9 November 2016
First class condition, pleased
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2011
This is a scrupulously well researched account of the history of the Security Service MI5 and the operations in which it has been involved. The author has been given access to the great majority of historical files, while forming his own conclusions about the significance of their contents. Inevitably coverage of some recent events is less thorough due to current national security requirements and the need to protect active sources, but is still insightful and sober in its conclusions. The book will not of course satisfy conspiracy theorists of one stripe or another, but the author's judgements seem shrewd and pretty balanced to me, pointing out intelligence successes (e.g. the Double Cross turning of German agents in WWII, or the tracking down and surveillance of Islamic ricin and homemade bomb-making plotters) and failures such as the slowness in identifying the Cambridge spy ring, the over-estimation of the strength of the KGB's analysis of the intelligence they acquired from the West and more recently the relative slowness in the 1990s of perceiving the worldwide reach of Islamic terror plots. The book clearly shows the insubstantial nature of most intelligence and the difficulty of assessing its reliability, points often lost on politicians and the general public who desire certainty and clearcut information.

Finally, one aspect of the book's structure was a little less than helpful, that is the fact that each major section, e.g. WWII, early Cold War, etc. began with a chapter covering how MI5 evolved during that era, before the other chapters giving the detail. This led to a slight confusion on timing in some places and some duplication of material. Usefully, there is a concluding chapter detailing the main points covered in the text. The index could have been more thorough.
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