The Best Books On Intelligence History

The Books I Picked & Why

The Secret World: A History of Intelligence

By Christopher Andrew

The Secret World: A History of Intelligence

Why this book?

This book is written by the best intelligence historian of our times, former Official Historian of the British Security Service (MI5), professor of Cambridge University and founder of Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. It is an intelligence history bible which is a must read for everyone interested in this complex subject, for all scholars, intelligence professionals and students of intelligence. It is also wonderfully written and reliable in most cases.


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The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

By Christopher Andrew, Vasili Mitrokhin

The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

Why this book?

Better known as The Mitrokhin Archive, these are the first (and practically only) books, two great volumes, truly based on the secret KGB archives showing Soviet foreign intelligence operations in Europe, the USA, and the rest of the world. They cover the period from the founding of the Cheka (predecessor to the KGB) in 1917 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Again, both books are wonderfully written by Professor Andrew who had worked with Mitrokhin and his archive and represent an academic research of exceptional quality. All scholars, students and intelligence professionals must have these two books in their library. The same concerns all university libraries without any exception.


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Soviet Espionage

By David J Dallin

Soviet Espionage

Why this book?

Anybody, who wants to study intelligence history and specifically the work of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS), must start with this book which covers several important cases in the 1930s. Remarkably, the author is not an intelligence historian and never worked in the archives. David Dallin’s writings that proved to be correct and accurate in most of the cases, were entirely based on his own analysis, newspaper publications and occasional interviews with Soviet defectors.


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Mi6

By Stephen Dorril

Mi6

Why this book?

Unlike the official history of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6, by Keith Jeffery, this book is written without the censorship of the Service presenting the facts as the author, a journalist and academic, considers fit and proper to show. Very well written and covering a considerable period of time with many secret operations, it is a very good book which The Guardian described as ‘A remarkable achievement and an encyclopaedic post-war history which any student of the secret world should read.’


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The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue

By Frederick Forsyth

The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue

Why this book?

In 2015 Forsyth published his autobiography entitled The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue. This is another excellent book written in his usual style - full of intrigue and adventures, only this time the author himself is the main protagonist. Besides, all that Forsyth describes in this book is either true or at least very close to the truth including his admitting that for a certain period of time and in certain countries he had been acting as an agent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That doesn’t mean, of course, that Forsyth had ever been a spy, but he is certainly writing his spy novels as an insider.

All his books are extremely well written and must be studied by all intelligence professionals as textbooks. Usually, intelligence officers do not like reading because they think their life is so interesting and full of adventures that nothing can be more fascinating. This is wrong. If I were lecturing at the spy school, I would say to my students: read Forsyth.


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