7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
New take on spying and empire,
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This review is from: Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire (Kindle Edition)
Walton deserves four stars for putting together two well known topics - espionage and end of empire, and coming up with a new take on both. Many of the sources (official documents) are new, making the book feel fresh. I liked his argument that intelligence links were an effective - and cheap - way of prolonging British influence in the former empire. And that many of Britain's end of empire failures were intelligence failures - particularly failing to predict or infiltrate anti-colonial movements, in Cyprus, Kenya etc, or learn lessons from past failures. There is a short, but informative, history of British intelligence, and a straightforward country by country (Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, Suez etc) account of events, which is easy to follow and allows comparisons.
That said, I do see why some reviewers were less kind. I could have lived without strained analogies with 21st century torture and rendition (see Alastair Horne's 'A Savage War of Peace' about Algeria for a better condemnation of torture). This may grate on some readers. And he often seemed amazed that spies spy on people. By relying on written sources, mostly on MI5, the story sometimes feels dry, and incomplete (eg in comparison to Gordon Correra's 'The Art of Betrayal' on MI6 after WW2, full of first hand accounts and detail).
But the topic and thesis helped me overlook that, and I found it a fast and fascinating read that made me think a little differently about Britain's exit from empire.