The Secret World: A History of Intelligence, Christopher Andrew

Ok so, I was scrolling through Netgalley with keyword searches to see if anything was available that would be both fun for me to read, and actually relevant to what I do. Despite cyber being all the rage right now, you’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to find relevant material that isn’t drier than the Sahara in a heat wave. And…. l didn’t find anything.


When I changed my keyword to “intelligence,” l hit the absolute jackpot: a new text by Professor Christopher Andrew! You better be believe that after I finished wheezing from shock, I requested that title SO FAST. And, amazingly, I got it! Thank you, “expertise” and “education”!

For those of you who may not know, Professor Andrew is one of (if not the) leading authorities in intelligence history, and I’ve been reading his work since I was a baby undergrad who didn’t know the difference between deception and denial. The fact that I have the opportunity to read this book (published September 2018, you can preorder here) just made my week.

As you can tell, this is going to be a sterling review. And, honestly: it would have to have been a truly atrocious book for me to have been unhappy while reading it. Does that make my review biased? ln one sense, probably. On the other hand, having read Professor Andrew’s work in the past and having studied intelligence for near on a decade myself, I am perhaps uniquely placed to critique such books. Take it how you will.

This book was an awesome read. And I mean, awesome. lntelligence history, despite what some may think or believe, is often stranger than fiction. Professor Andrew has condensed an amazing amount of information into this text, and through an approachable writing style and impeccable use of anecdotal asides has written quite the enjoyable volume. No Saharan sand here! You get to read about turncoats, double agents, triple agents, monarchs throwing their shoes at their spymasters! That one really made me chortle; how undignified, for both parties.

Look, I have a particular interest in intelligence and that drives a lot of my leisure reading as well as my research, but I truly think that this history has something all readers will enjoy. It is a little large (900+ pages), but the way the book is formatted means you can dip into a certain period in intelligence history without having to commit to the whole thing at once, which l quite liked. Or, you can join Nerds’R’Us and read it cover to cover, for your enjoyment and (thorough) edification.


I loved it. Five star read, people.



Disclaimer: I received an ecopy of this book for review, but as with every book I review the provenance makes no difference to my opinion of the content.

Photo credit: As my copy is digital, this cover image is from the publisher’s web page, which can be accessed here.

Categories: 2018 Reading Challenges, Intelligence

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