Signposts: Monitoring Mi5

Bernard Porter reviews the field of studies of British covert operations and espionage.

Espionage, spying, spooks, undercover operations, the Cambridge three (then four, or even five), surveillance, counter-terrorism – all thrill the imagination and on the centenary of the founding of the British home intelligence organisation, MI5, engage the attention of historians. The publication of the first official history of MI5 (now formally known as the Security Service), an organisation whose existence was not admitted for nearly a century, seems to be just the moment to look at recent studies on the history of modern espionage.

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