THE SECRET WORLD: A HISTORY OF INTELLIGENCE
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THE SECRET WORLD: A HISTORY OF INTELLIGENCE
26th June 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pmFree
SPEAKER: PROFESSOR CHRISTOPHER ANDREW, Author of The Secret World: A History of Intelligence
Partly because of official secrecy, no 20th century profession was as ignorant of its history as the intelligence community.
The celebrated Bletchley Park codebreakers who broke Hitler’s ciphers in WW2 had no idea that their predecessors had broken French ciphers during the Napoleonic Wars and those of the Spanish before the Armada of 1588. The Renaissance intelligence services that gave Europe a world lead for the first time were wholly unaware of the achievements of their Chinese, Indian and Muslim predecessors. Europe’s new pre-eminence in the uses of intelligence went unchallenged until the American War of Independence, when George Washington outclassed his British opponents.
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to an event with Professor Christopher Andrew, author of The Secret World: A History of Intelligence, who will demonstrate the impact of intelligence upon history and the importance of learning from experience. Professor Andrew will argue in his presentation that today’s intelligence causes célèbres—among them Snowden, Putin and Islamist terrorism—will look rather different when seen in long-term perspective.
Professor Christopher Andrew has spent his whole career at Cambridge University where he was the first to teach the history of intelligence and founded the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. While working in Paris for a Cambridge PhD, he discovered files showing that French ministers before the First World War understood less about codebreaking than Cardinal Richelieu three centuries earlier. In the last 50 years, in addition to discovering intelligence files in archives from Paris to Canberra, Andrew has had unparalleled opportunities to understand the intelligence community in East and West from the inside. He spent almost 20 years working (initially secretly) with two KGB officers, Oleg Gordievsky and Vasili Mitrokhin, who had risked their lives to pass top-secret intelligence to MI6 and its allies. The FBI called Mitrokhin’s files ‘the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source’. In the United States, as Michael Beton Kaneb Professor of National Security at Harvard, he benefited from new research opportunities and the opportunity to lecture to the CIA and other intelligence agencies. From 2003 to 2010 Andrew was the first (and so far only) official historian of MI5, writing its best-selling centenary history.
On the 26th of June the Henry Jackson Society had the pleasure of hosting Professor Christopher Andrew, Professor at Cambridge University, and Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of Research and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society. His latest book, The Secret World: A History of Intelligence, covers the history of intelligence from Moses to the 21st century. Our guests led an engaging discussion on Professor Andrew’s book and the lessons current leaders can take from the history of intelligence. Professor Andrew opened the discussion by briefly discussing the first example of intelligence which was from God to Moses.
Professor Andrew emphasised that those who do not understand the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat it. To demonstrate this, he used an acronym called HASDD; Historical Attention Span Deficit Disorder. HASDD is the idea that there is only focus on the present rather than on the history before it. Professor Andrew explained that in order to understand intelligence, you need to understand the history of intelligence.
Only when policymakers understand intelligence can they make informed decisions. Winston Churchill was a historian and therefore he was the best example of this as he understood intelligence better than anyone in history.
There can be those that are highly intelligent but are ignorant in using intelligence. Such was the case when the Napoleonic Codes were broken and nobody realized it until George Scovell. The problem with intelligence is that there is no point in obtaining the information if it cannot be processed. If there are policymakers that do not understand history, then they will be able to properly understand the information they are given.
Professor Andrew fears that HASDD dominates political culture today. In the 1940s whenever somebody wanted to get involved in politics they would read Stalin and Hitler to understand the enemy better. Nowadays people ought to be reading religious texts to understand religious terrorism, but that is not the case.
Dr Foxall praised The Secret World: A History of Intelligence and Professor Andrew for his enlightening talk. Dr Foxall added that A History of Intelligence is a must read for anyone interested about intelligence.
Professor Andrew closed by giving an example of how history can help understand subtle messages. When Putin raised a champagne toast to the founder of polonium-210 praising him as a Russian hero he was really mocking the world because of the assassination of Alexander Litvineko that used polonium-210.
We were honoured to host the distinguished Professor Andrew.
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