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A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century Kindle Edition

18 customer reviews

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Length: 545 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Intelligence, according to Richelson, played a crucial role in defeating Hitler, preventing the Cold War from turning into a nuclear war and keeping the superpower arms race from getting completely out of hand. His comprehensive survey explores the impact of spies and their special technology on world events in this century, showing how intelligence gathering and espionage have become a multibillion-dollar enterprise. The book covers events and developments from WWI to the age of spy satellites. With the end of the Cold War, as he shows, intelligence organizations have begun to focus more on international economic rivalries?an emphasis that includes economic espionage. Richelson predicts that intelligence technologies in the next century will become even more sophisticated but humans will still be needed for obtaining documents, technical samples and on-site reporting. This decade-by-decade review of key events and breakthroughs in intelligence and espionage is masterly. Richelson is a Senior Fellow at the National Security Archive.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this ambitious book, Richelson (America's Secret Eyes in Space, HarperBusiness, 1990) surveys the growth, development, and transformation of intelligence (a.k.a., "spying") in the 20th century. The work combines elements of popular spy books-great stories, colorful characters, and sad incidents-with more straightforward analysis. For the ardent spy buff, the volume is an interesting array of tales with a broader developmental focus; indeed, the cross-national perspective is a strength here. The book falls short, however, in providing the in-depth analysis one would hope for. For example, a final chapter on "a new world of disorder" falls short of providing a good vision of the current situation, despite a proper emphasis on economic intelligence, proliferation, and technical intelligence means. Ultimately, too many questions are left unanswered here. While Richelson believes that spying has had its beneficial aspects (e.g., breaking Hitler), its impact on domestic life, no matter what country, slips by him. An optional purchase.
H. Steck, SUNY at Cortland
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1180 KB
  • Print Length: 545 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 019511390X
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 27, 1995)
  • Publication Date: June 27, 1995
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00716PVR8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,469 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
this book, written by a military scholar, will appeal to those seeking the tree to many branches; it gives excellent accounts of operations from the shadowy days of secret wartime missions, as well as up-to-date workings of the separate intelligence communities. With a comprehensive bibliography, the would-be intelligence analyst cannot go wrong choosing this book as their guide
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By ErickH12 on February 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book was originally assigned to me in college as part of a course on US Intelligence. It has stayed on my bookshelf ever since then. I've reread parts of it for fun, or when I needed to reference something.
It's a great book that includes a least a small section on every major, and most minor intelligence operation or development of the century. Human Intelligence, technical, it doens't limit itself to one area. Obviously WW2 and the Cold War get the most attention, but there is plenty on various other conflicts and other parties.
All the major subjects are covered, and there will be quite a few smaller incidents that I (and most likely you) had not heard of previously, or only new very little about.
Richelsen has excellent credentials and is a great source, the book is very informative and accurate, as well as maintaining a factual and unbiased tone on a subject is very often not to unbiased. Despite it all this it remains a fun and enjoyable read, accessible to readers with a lot or very minimal previous knowledge of Intelligence work.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andy in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am an avid reader of history, and especially of intelligence, spying, and military history. There are few books that I have started which I have not read to completion, but this was one of them. After about 150 pages, I realized that I wasn't enjoying the book, I wasn't learning much from it, and that I wasn't in a college course, so I could just stop reading. My criticisms, in no particular order:

* While Kindles seem plagued by typos, this book sets a new standard. The errors actually begin to distract from the work, although they do provide some comedy relief. My favorite- a chapter that chronicles that famous WWI event, "The Battle of the Mame". I think it was a Lucille Ball movie.

* A good portion of the book is a recitation of names, dates, places and events. Some of these are important, some should be footnotes to the footnotes.

* Much of the information presented is devoid of any context. As an example, one section of the book describes in detail the intelligence efforts behind the Battle of Jutland. These efforts, however, make little sense unless you have a fairly detailed appreciation of the naval tactics and geographical context of Jutland. I suspect few readers have such details committed to memory, and must, like me, resort to an external source for background material.

* The author makes sweeping statements, but does not back them up. For example, Richelson credits the Nazi intelligence services with a good portion of the credit for allowing Hitler's early successes in the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Probably true to some extent, but certainly an opinion that requires some argument and facts to support it.

* In other cases, Richelson seems shy about taking a position.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Franciscus on October 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
An excellent composition of non-fiction information. It presents very good details about the foreign policy and current information. This book is a great read for the layman and the global security reader.

Author of THE SHEQEL
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rexine (Gina) Bryant on November 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been a lover of mystery books and intelligence gathering almost since I learned to read. As both a literature buff and history buff, delving into the evolution of intelligence gathering (coupled with the ever-expanding technology) became almost a "must". The book is well balanced, delving into the different modalities and technology used in intelligence gathering coding, decoding, and transmission. It also features brief vignettes on particular spies who were superlative in their vocation as well as some who were not so spectacular, and some who just had amusing (or irritating) idiosynchracies that gave a smile now and then.
It is, first and last, a HISTORY book -- and anyone who reads much history knows that it is very densely packed, and very slow reading. However the information one gleans about how technological advances which are not only applied to "improvement in living ease" but also in ever-more-difficult spying techniques will long be remembered.

Taking the transmission of intelligence from private courier to telephone, to "Marconi wireless" to various kinds of wireless technology and "bugs" all had both strong and weak points which needed to be addressed.

I gave it 4-stars because the reading is so dense and moves so slowly, and in order to follow one chain of events, other developments not used in this primary endeavor must be backtracked and introduced at a later time, so it does not lend itself to a strict chronlogy, but you find you are taking mini-backtracks exploring other methods as well.

All in all, it is a very good book, but a book to be read a little bit at a time, so that there is time to "digest" it. Three Cheers to Jeffrey Richelson, who had the patience to untangle it, and present a masterful book!!
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