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Comment: Condition: As New condition., As new condition dust jacket. Binding: Hardcover. / Edition: First Edition, 1st Printing as stated. Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The / Pub. Date: 2010-09-21 Attributes: Book, 810 pp / Illustrations: B&W Photographs Stock#: 2026947 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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The Secret History of MI6 Hardcover – September 21, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202745
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202742
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Keith Jeffery on Writing The Secret History of MI6

The British Secret Intelligence Service—popularly known as MI6—is the oldest established continuously surviving foreign intelligence-gathering organisation in the world. It has also historically been the most secret department of the British government. Founded in 1909, its existence was not officially acknowledged until 1994. Before then official British representatives had to pretend, sometimes with embarrassing results, that there was no such organisation as ‘MI6’, and even if there was, they ‘couldn’t possibly comment’ about it. Although the agency has had a website since 2005, few details are released about the number of people who work for it or the size of its budget, nor are any of its officers publicly avowed, with the sole exception of the Chief, whose name has been published since 1992. Unlike Britain’s other security and intelligence organisations, MI5 (which covers domestic security, rather like the FBI) and the signals intelligence agency, the blandly-titled Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ; analogous to the NSA), SIS releases absolutely none of its departmental records to the British National Archives. For almost all of its hundred-year existence, the strict line has been taken that the super-secret work of SIS, gathering foreign intelligence from foreign sources, has been of such vital national importance that no iota of information about it could formally be released to the public. Until now.

The writing of an officially-authorised history of SIS presents challenges for the agency and historian alike. For the outcome not to appear to be some sort of ‘hack house history’ (and thus vitiate its value as a reliable, scholarly and authoritative work) the author has to be given sufficient freedom—or licence—to exercise his or her own critical judgments. The author, too, has to surmount the wisely sceptical assumptions of colleagues who may believe that the fact that he has been deemed suitable for the task may precisely render him unsuitable to produce a rigorous and independent history. Writing to such a commission necessarily involves accepting some constraints on what may be published, but so long as any redactions are limited to genuine matters of national security (though that itself is a matter of potentially differing judgment), and not simply to protect the agency from embarrassment, or to suppress failure or wrong-doing, it ought to be a price worth paying. It may in some degree be invidious that only a single individual is granted uniquely privileged access to what is certainly the ‘Holy Grail’ of British archives, but since it is the case that for the foreseeable future no similar access will be granted to anyone else, then perhaps the risk is worth taking.

--Keith Jeffery

About the Author

Keith Jeffery is a professor of British history at Queen’s University, Belfast, and has written or edited thirteen books.

More About the Author

Keith Jeffery is a professor of British history at Queen's University, Belfast, and has written or edited thirteen books.

Customer Reviews

This book, although incredibly detailed and informative, reads like a boring textbook.
A. Gift For You
You would think that at this point, MI6 would permit more details about actual operations and their impact to emerge, but apparently this is not the case.
Koba
Jeffery points out, "During the 1930s attention was directed far too late to the coinciding threats posed by German rearmament and the rise of the Nazis."
William Podmore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Keith Jeffery accepted the task of writing the history of MI-6, the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) from the SIS itself, who wished to "commission an independent and authoritative volume" on the anniversary of their centenary. The history covers the beginnings from 1909, with the worries over an aggressive Germany to 1949. The reason for stopping at 1949 are given in a well written forward and preface - mainly that after that date there are still too many facts that are security sensitive. There are also explanations of how and why the agents and people who have worked for the SIS are protected. Many times only initials are used, and it is admitted that some stories had to be omitted because of the fear of identifying agents.
There is a much needed list of abbreviations and what they stand for and a detailed index. There are some illustrations and diagrams throughout the reading and two sections of photographs.

Jeffery says he was given unrestricted access to the archives, however, it has been the practice to destroy huge numbers of documents once their usefulness was up... how that is determined is never explained. This is not a book containing stories of daring and master spy techniques, instead it reads more like a government report; and in many ways that is its' failing. There is only accuracy rather than, also the appeal of and recollection of operations completed.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jorge A. Fragola on October 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good book. I've read other books on the subject and I find this one very interesting. However there is one caveat, that it only goes to 1949, therefor leaving what perhaps is one of the most intriguing part of the of the history of MI6. That is of the Cold War and the moles in the service. Also another caveat is that this is "an official story", with a pre-selected author. The author reports that he was given complete access to existing files from that era, but the names an identities were changed when necessary. While this presumably gives accuracy to the book, and it probably does, the reader will never know for sure what kind of 'pressure" was put on an approved author on certain topics. Nevertheless is excellent reading. Compares favorably to S. Power works.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Koba on April 5, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I have hundreds of books on espionage and intelligence, and I must say I expected more from this one. Indeed, this book was so uninteresting that I had a very hard time finishing it. Even the section on WW2 was dull, and one might even go so far as to say that writing a boring history of MI6 in WW2 is an accomplishment of sorts!

As other reviewers have noted, the focus of this book is not what MI6 spies did or how they did it, or even the significance of what they learned, but the history of MI6's bureaucratic organization, as well as its budgetary and personnel struggles, and its feuds with other government departments. You would think that at this point, MI6 would permit more details about actual operations and their impact to emerge, but apparently this is not the case. Thus, all we get are dull administrative minutiae. This book ends in 1949, and if the author produces a subsequent volume covering a later period, I certainly don't plan to purchase it. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on February 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a very detailed history of MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, based on access to MI6's archives. The author is Keith Jeffery, Professor of British History at Queen's University Belfast. The foreword is by the Chief of the SIS and the project was approved by the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it is far less revealing than Stephen Dorril's more critical book, MI6: fifty years of special operations, which Jeffery doesn't even note in his bibliography.

Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, said at the end of World War One, "our real danger now is not the Boch but Bolshevism." This view determined British foreign policy, and MI6's activities, for decades.

In 1921, Foreign Secretary George Curzon, on the basis of SIS reports, protested against alleged Soviet intervention in Ireland and India. The Soviet government calmly exposed the supposed documentary proof as `elementary fabrications', much to Curzon's embarrassment.

On 9 October 1924, the SIS said of the forged `Zinoviev letter', "the authenticity of the document is undoubted." A top official wrote after the resulting Conservative victory, "As you know the civil service has no politics, but I fancy they would contribute heavily to a statue to Zinovieff and Mr Campbell, for the effect they had on the election." For more than 50 years, the Foreign Office absurdly carried on claiming that the letter was genuine.

On 12 May 1927, the government conducted the infamous raid on ARCOS, the All-Russian Cooperative Society, but, as Jeffery notes, "No significant evidence of Soviet espionage was discovered.
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