Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire

Calder Walton
£25.00
Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire

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Bernard Porter writes:


It’s pretty obvious why British governments have been anxious to keep the history of their secret service secret for so long. In the case of decolonisation, which is the subject of Calder Walton’s book, revelations about dirty tricks even after fifty years might do irreparable damage to the myth carefully cultivated at the time: which was that for Britain, unlike France, say, or the Netherlands, or Belgium, the process was smooth and friendly. Britain, so the story went, was freely granting self-government to its colonies as the culmination of imperial rule, which had always had this as its ultimate aim – ‘Empire into Commonwealth’, as the history books used to put it. If for no other reason, the myth was needed in order to make ordinary Britons feel better. This book doesn’t shy away from the atrocities that accompanied decolonisation, and indeed adds one or two examples. Walton’s revelations have come as a result of his researches into newly released MI5 and Joint Intelligence Committee files. (MI5, usually seen as the domestic arm of the intelligence services, also had responsibility for the empire. SIS – otherwise known as MI6 – covered abroad proper, including the ex-colonies after independence.)

(LRB 21 March 2013)

Published by HarperPress
31 January 2013
Hardback
ISBN: 9780007457960

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